"Lake Placid," plain and simple, is a sorry excuse for a
"creature-in-the-water" movie, even on the basis of the cliched subgenre.
Most of the fault has to be put on director Steve Miner who, for reasons
unknown, insists on making each of his movies ridiculously and shamefully
short (this is also what severely hurt the otherwise stylish, suspenseful,
84-minute "Halloween: H20"). Perhaps Miner just wants the audience to think
his films are fast-paced and exciting, which they may be, but I have extra
news for him: they also come off feeling utterly empty and leave a negative
taste in your mouth. Having to spend approximately $7.75 on a movie ticket
doesn't help matters, either.
Here's the deal: when a scuba diver is torn in half within a small Maine
lake, New York paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda), whose boyfriend
(an unbilled Adam Arkin) has just broken up with her, is assigned to travel
down to the lake and examine the tooth that was found on the corpse's body.
Once down there, she meets up with game warden Jack Wells (Bill Pullman),
mythology professor Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt), and two county sheriffs
(Brendan Gleeson, Meredith Salenger) to investigate the death. They soon
discover the culprit is a giant, 30-foot-long crocodile that has leaked in
from the ocean (yeah, right!), and that casually is able to eat large bears
and cattle without a moment's thought.
"Lake Placid" is dumb filmmaking. If it wasn't for David E. Kelley's
surprisingly snappy dialogue within the otherwise haphazard screenplay, the
movie would be a complete misfire. As is, the film not only is short, but it
is cheap-looking, despite its $30-million price tag. Although the animatronic
crocodile is somewhat realistic, the computer-generated shots are beyond
cheesy (as they were in 1997's similar, but superior, "Anaconda"), and
practically the whole film seems to be set in the same exact area of woods
right beside the lake. Due to the length, and just as the case was with
"Halloween: H20," there is a first-act and then it rapidly switched to the
third-act. My question to Miner and perhaps Kelley is, "didn't anyone tell
you that there is supposed to be a second act leading up to the climax?"
In the true bottom-of-the-barrell horror vein, "Lake Placid" portrays a group
of dimwitted characters who do the most stupid things at the most dire times,
such as scuba diving even while knowing that there is a vicious crocodile
lurking about, or running into the water to get away from the reptile! These
sorts of genre tactics usually can slide by with me just because I get a sick
satisfaction watching people being stalked by someone and/or something, but
the film isn't the least bit scary, or even suspenseful. Not once was I able
to not predict when the crocodile was going to pop out of the water, and all
of the big action scenes (there aren't many to begin with) were shown in the
trailers. To top things off, not only are the human characters written below
normal intelligence, but so is the crocodile who, in one scene, stares at its
potential food but waits until the person is safe before it attempts to
In the acting department, Bridget Fonda is feisty and resourceful, if a bit
of a whiner, as the strong-willed heroine, and former- "Golden Girl" Betty
White is a scene-stealer as elderly farmer Delores Bickerman, who feeds her
cattle to the crocodile on a regular basis and recites obscene lines of
dialogue such as, "If I had a dick, I'd show you where to suck it."
Meanwhile, Bill Pullman is the token potential love interest of Fonda's,
Brendan Gleeson plays his bumbling sheriff character to a hilt, and Oliver
Platt often overacts to the point of annoyance, but garners one or two
laughs. Meredith Salenger, who made a splash in the '80s with such films as
"The Journey of Natty Gann" and "Dream a Little Dream," returns after a
sizable big-screen absense with the thankless, thoroughly one-dimensional
role of another sheriff, and based on her strong performances in the past,
she deserves far better.
The only thing "Lake Placid" ultimately has going for it is its witty
dialogue. The premise is old-hat by now and, coincidentally, is stunningly
close to 1982's fellow horror-comedy, "Alligator." It may tickle your funny
bone now and again, but not for long periods at a time, and on the same
weekend in which the terrifying masterpiece, "The Blair Witch Project," goes
into limited release, the only thing horrific about "Lake Placid" is that
director Miner actually thought he was making a good movie.
Copyright © 2000 Dustin Putman