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  Lake Placid What A Croc
Year: 1999
Director: Steve Miner
Stars: Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, Betty White, David Lewis, Tim Dixon, Natassia Malthe, Mariska Hargitay, Meredith Salenger, Jed Rees, Richard Leacock, Jake T. Roberts, Warren Takeuchi, Ty Olsson, Adam Arkin
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sheriff Hank Keogh (Brendan Gleason) is on a boat, on a lake, in rural Maine being treated with sarcasm by a naturalist there to tag some of the beaver population. He doesn't appreciate this, but what can he do, once the scuba gear-wearing naturalist has disappeared under the water, except wait and eat snacks? As the Sheriff contemplates the scenery, there's something large swimming around beneath him, something that the diver has a too-close encounter with - when Hank pulls him panicking aboard the boat, there's only half of him there. What in a North American lake could be big enough to do that kind of damage?

If you like the sound of a monster movie written by the creator of Ally McBeal, among other sassy television series, then Lake Placid could be the answer to your prayers. David E. Kelley was his name, and a Jaws-inspired horror was his game, with liberal amount of wisecracking humour added to ensure that there's nobody in the audience taking it too seriously. The creature in this case was a gigantic crocodile, but it's kept offscreen for most of the film, perhaps to build up the tension, perhaps because the special effects bringing it to life were costly.

There are four main characters who bicker endlessly in what was presumably hoped to stir memories of Howard Hawks banter. There's paleontologist Kelly (I wonder how that name was picked?) played by a brittle Bridget Fonda, who has been sent up to investigate due to a reptile tooth found in the body of the diver, and she's only too happy to go as she's just been dumped by her boyfriend and boss (an uncredited Adam Arkin). Then there's local game warden Jack (Bill Pullman, using his best "wry" expression), who is sceptical about all this talk of monsters.

The last of this foursome to arrive is Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt), a big game hunter in all but name, a rich nature lover who has a particular passion for crocodiles. He immediately rubs the others up the wrong way, but then, they're all incredibly prickly; I suppose this is Kelley's idea of witty exchanges, but everyone comes across as incredibly bad tempered so that it's a miracle that any of them manage to cooperate at all. There's such a thing as good natured ribbing, and this film could have done with more of it instead of the relentless sniping.

But this is a monster movie, although you might forget that when caught up in the squabbling. The big mystery is where the giant crocodile has come from, and a clue is gleaned from the old lady who lives by the lake shore, played by Betty White. Apparently it's the height of hilarity to hear one of the Golden Girls swear her head off, but you wish the filmmakers had aimed higher for laughs. The thrill sequences, however, are efficient, although hardly anyone gets eaten so horror fans may feel shortchanged, and it is derivative of many sardonic monster flicks that have been seen before. Add to that the zero chemistry between the romantic leads (you could accept them as friends, sure), plus an ecological dilemma over killing the croc (this was the nineties all right), and you get a film where you can see what they're aiming for, but also the targets they miss. Music by John Ottman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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