Review by Dustin Putman|
½ star out of 4
1997's "Anaconda" was a cheesy, slick B-movie that had fun with its
premise of a documentary film crew being terrorized by a very big
snake, succeeding by never pretending to be anything more than a silly
popcorn entertainment. It also featured an impressive cast of rising
A-listers—Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Ice Cube—and one deliciously
over-the-top standout in human villain Jon Voight that raised it above
the throwaway level. With no apparent connection to its predecessor,
a cast made up mostly of talentless unknowns, and an out-of-place
tone far too serious for its wholly ludicrous plot, "Anacondas: The
Hunt for the Blood Orchid" is both excessively unnecessary and thoroughly
worthless. The original may not have been great, but it sometimes
takes a truly awful motion picture to uncover another film's qualities.
Hidden deep in the Borneo jungle is the Blood Orchid, an extremely
rare flower that blooms once every seven years and holds the key to
eternal life. Seeing a chance to create a product that would be "bigger
than Viagara," a group of entrepreneurs and scientists set out on
the jungle river to recover the flower. Before they can find it, however,
their boat capsizes over a waterfall and they are left stranded in
the wilderness. The ragtag team soon realize they are not alone. Lurking
all around them are lethal, hungry Anaconda snakes, who guard the
Blood Orchids and have been made giant by their extended lives.
Suffering through the superfluously-titled "Anacondas: The Hunt for
the Blood Orchid," it would be understandable to pose the following
question to oneself: "Who wrote this asinine junk?" While the presence
of a screenwriter is clear—no automated, unscripted movie, even a
low-rent creature feature, could feature such an absurd premise—what
does boggle the mind is the participation of four writers (John Claflin,
Daniel Zelman, Michael Miner, Edward Neumeier). Did they intentionally
sit around day in and day out, concocting the most tediously drawn-out
and creatively pedestrian of horror sequels, or is the lowly finished
product merely a freak accident on the part of hacks with grade-school
abilities? Either way, "Anacondas" is a virtual rehash of "Anaconda,"
minus the former film's wickedly sly sensibilities, taut pacing, and passable suspense.
For a film supposedly about robust killer snakes, "Anacondas" even
fails on fulfilling the expectations to see lots of slithering reptiles.
With a mild, flavorless PG-13 rating that bars any of the deaths from
being shown and the shots of the snakes nearly matching the amount
already seen in the theatrical trailer, the viewer is left malnourished
from what they came to see and never got. When the Anacondas are shown,
they are bereft of the threatening personality they had in the original,
waterlogged by the chintziest, most slapdash CG effects to grace a
studio picture this year. Incredibly, filmmaker Dwight Little (a frequent
television director also responsible for 1988's respectable "Halloween
4: The Return of Michael Myers") donates roughly 75 percent of his
interminable 90-minute running time with hoary exposition and dialogue,
treating his hopelessly wafer-thin characters as if they were being
played by performers who could actually act and carry scenes by themselves.
They can't, and what is left is a pace equal to that of a dead snail.
While not sharing identical names, all of the characters feel like
replacements for the 1997 actors. As scientist and head of the expedition,
Gail Stern, Salli Richardson-Whitfield (2002's "Antwone Fisher") is
the poor man's Jennifer Lopez and, in certain scenes, a dead ringer
for the Latino star. As the stubborn but eventually moralistic Gordon
Mitchell, Morris Chestnut (2004's "Breakin' All the Rules") has the
Ice Cube role. Richardson-Whitfield and Chestnut, the only veterans
of the ensemble, are at least tolerable. Johnny Messner (2004's "The
Whole Ten Yards"), as hunky, muscled tough guy Bill Johnson, is beyond
amateurish in his sincere but unbelievable line deliveries. As virtuous
Sam Rogers, KaDee Strickland (2003's "Something's Gotta Give")—in
the Kari Wuhrer part—starts the film off with a laugh-inducingly thick
Southern accent and then promptly loses it altogether by the second
act. Like Strickland's promise as a thespian, her twang never returns.
Almost as bad and easily more forgettable are Matthew Marsden (2001's
"Black Hawk Down")—no match for Jon Voight—as the slimy, money-hungry
Dr. Jack Byron, and Eugene Byrd (2002's "8 Mile")—an amalgamation
of Ice Cube's and Owen Wilson's parts—as t oken black comic relief Cole Burris.
Save for a couple unintentional guffaws near the beginning, "Anacondas:
The Hunt for the Blood Orchid" doesn't even fall into the "so bad
it's entertaining" category. It is a chore to sit through, as unscary,
threadbare, and downright dull as these kinds of movies come. If it
were not for the box-office success of its precursor, there is no
doubt it would have gone direct-to-video next to similar giant-snake
schlock like 2002's "Boa" and 2000's ironically superior "Python."
"Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid" scrapes the bottom of the
barrel and then digs lower without even trying (director Dwight Little
plainly didn't), making one long for weeks' past when the mediocre
"Alien vs. Predator" and "Exorcist: The Beginning" were released.
When you go to see a film about huge, deadly snakes and the sickeningly
precocious monkey who tags along on the humans' trip gets more screen
time than the reptilian villains—and lives to see the end credits,
no less— you know you're in trouble.
Copyright © 2004 Dustin Putman