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
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
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
Copyright © 2000 Walter Frith