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Lake Placid

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Lake Placid

Starring: Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda
Director: Steve Miner
Rated: R
RunTime: 88 Minutes
Release Date: July 1999
Genres: Horror, Comedy

*Also starring: Brendan Gleeson, David Lewis, Natassia Maltke, Meredith Salenger, Oliver Platt, Betty White, Tim Dixon, Mariska Hargitay, Adam Arkin

Review by Walter Frith
2½ stars out of 4

I'm puzzled by the fact that in 1998 the American Film Institute rated the original 'Jaws' from 1975 #48 on its all time list. Don't misunderstand. The ratings were not based just on being the BEST in the minds of those who rated the list of films involved but included the movies with the biggest historical impact and cultural significance. Having gotten that out of the way, why was 1952's 'Singing in the Rain' #10 all time when the musical in this day and age has practically dried up and vanished yet we still have predatory films laced with thrills and humour the way 'Jaws' portrayed its subject matter. Heck, in 'Lake Placid' a human head even pops out at you the way one did from the bottom of the boat in 'Jaws'.

In today's surroundings, you can certainly make a film with gritty special effects that look realistic enough. This seems understood already but look at 1997's 'Anaconda', a film with horribly digitized special effects where the crop marks on the giant snake stood out so much that you could practically feel them if you touched the movie screen. Things have been cleaned up a lot here.

'Lake Placid' is directed by Steve Miner ('Friday the 13th 2+3'). Miner tastefully edits his picture here so that the gore is generally quick like a lightening bolt (perhaps a wee bit longer than that) but he stretches out the laughs to overlap any squeamish feeling audiences may have about all the blood and guts.

'Lake Placid' is an end of the century 'Jaws' rip-off in an endearing sort of way, and the material is dumbfounded and irreverent entertainment that somehow works. I suppose you could argue that 83 minutes isn't enough to justify a ticket price of nearly ten dollars but you will get several laughs to soften the blow and many of you will like the film's strange brew of different ingredients.

The film begins in Maine as a small town sheriff named Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) and a diver are out on a black coloured lake and the diver gets bitten in half below the waist and the investigation begins! This film has nothing to do with Lake Placid, New York. The title is irreverent as they joke that they wanted to give the lake in question that name but it was already taken. A game warden, Jack Wells (Bill Pullman) is called in from the local area as is paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) from New York City. They are later joined by Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) who is a mythology professor who likes and worships the presence of crocodiles. His character is thrown into the mix for comic relief and is similar to the Matt Hooper character portrayed in 'Jaws' by Richard Dreyfuss as the shark expert.

In typical 'Jaws' like fashion, the crocodile isn't seen right away but much later on in the film and there isn't much of an explanation as to how one identified to have Asian origins could end up in a lake in New England.

Despite the gaps in logic, there is plenty of off beat and original humour penned by David E. Kelley of television's 'The Practice' and Ally McBeal. One of his characters includes a potty-mouthed Betty White. Yes, that's right. Betty White of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and 'The Golden Girls'. She plays a widow living on the lake who sort of treats the croc to free meals made of full living cows and her now deceased husband?

A 30-foot crocodile may seem like a stretch (no pun intended) to believe they could exist in the type of places they do in this picture but if you want a good scary picture a bit more effective, look for 1980's 'Alligator' as it is better and uses Chicago as its setting where a bigger population is threatened that seems more exciting but 'Lake Placid' is still that form of entertainment where the 'boing' sound would have matched its goofy but effective scenes.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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