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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 Greg King
3½ stars out of 4

A recent resurgence of interest in creature features has given us a huge snake in the risible Anaconda and super smart deadly Mako sharks in Deep Blue Sea. Now comes a giant 30 foot man eating crocodile terrorising a peaceful lakeside community in upstate Maine.

When a deputy is mysteriously bitten in half on the lake, the local sheriff calls for some assistance. Nervous palaeontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) arrives from New York, hoping to escape an office romance gone wrong. Fisheries and game warden Jack Wells (Bill Pullman) also arrives to either capture or kill the beast. Laconic local sheriff Hank Keogh (Brendan Gleeson, from The General, etc) is initially resentful of their interference and their big city ways. But the strangest expert to arrive on the scene is Hector Cyr (a wonderfully over the top Oliver Platt), an eccentric mythology professor who prefers to swim with the crocodiles. He says that most ancient civilisations deified the crocodile. However, he and Keogh do not exactly get along, and their disdain for each other adds another, more comic dimension to the film.

Having established these colourful if somewhat clichéd characters, the film then moves onto the water and the hunt for the crocodile. The thin plot climaxes in a wonderfully bizarre finale as these odd ball characters try to trap the huge crocodile using a cow suspended from a helicopter as bait. It's just one of many quite hilarious moments in a film that is surprisingly entertaining.

Lake Placid refuses to take itself seriously, and its irreverent tone works a treat! In some ways, this fanciful, entertaining piece of hokum also reminded me a little of Alligator, the early 1980's B-grade creature feature written by John Sayles.

Lake Placid comes from the pen of David E Kelley, the creator of some of this decade's best and most offbeat tv shows (Picket Fences, Ally McBeal, The Practice, etc). Kelley's strengths lie in his ability to create quirky characters and his gift at writing smart, witty dialogue. The film just crackles with sly asides and a sarcastic humour that alleviates the tension. In particular, the barbed exchanges between Keogh and Cyr are a delight.

Gleeson's wonderfully droll, sarcastic performance easily steals the honours here, although tv veteran Betty White (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, etc) is also a delight as a foul mouthed widow who knows more about the unusual inhabitant of the lake than she lets on. The slowly developing romance between Scott and Wells doesn't always work, and just slows down the action.

Veteran horror director Steve Miner (the original Friday The 13th, the recent Halloween H20, etc) handles the film with assurance, although it's obvious he has taken a few pointers from the classic Jaws in his staging of early crocodile attacks. Some superb, impressive special effects have created a realistic and frightening crocodile.

But the strongest impression one takes away from Lake Placid is Kelley's smart, clever dialogue, which has more bite than the crocodile itself!

Copyright © 2000 Greg King

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