Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lake Placid directed by Steve Miner (starring Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, Betty White)

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on The Green Man Review. Copyright 2003. Reprinted with permission.

Lake Placid (1999). Screenplay by David E. Kelley.

This is a horror film. No, wait, let me reword that. This film is a horror.

Lake Placid is an attempt to bring humor into the "something in the water" genre, thereby mixing Jaws (or Piranha or Alligator) with Scream.

Unfortunately, scribe David E. Kelley and director Steve Miner don't play by the rules and end up with a film that is worse than the worst in the genre. Perhaps Kelley was too far from his home turf — the courtroom — to be able to pull off a passable entertainment. As it is, Lake Placid is merely a frustrating timewaster.

Bill Pullman is a local game warden and Bridget Fonda is a paleontologist (as if!) out to study the appearance of a giant Asian crocodile in Maine. (I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that this is intended to be part of the joke.)

The audience knows from the beginning that Pullman and Fonda are destined to end up together because for the bulk of the movie they so adorably refuse to get along. In addition, their names are above the title, so they are guaranteed to survive the film. This saps away any suspense surrounding anything they do. And all attempts at humor fall flat.

But if the movie's not funny, at least we can revel in the action of the kills, right? Well, no. "Lake Flaccid" is wimpy even in its body count. How are we supposed to believe that this crocodile is particularly dangerous if it doesn't even have the intelligence to see that the annoying professor played by Oliver Platt is chewing up more scenery than the crocodile is, and, as competition, should be instantly done away with? I actually figured him to be snuffed out right after the pilot, who, I believe, is only the second person eaten. Alas, our friend the flyboy (director Miner himself) is also the last person to be granted entry into the gullet.

Frankly, I expected better from Steve Miner, who helmed two installments of the Friday the 13th series and also Halloween: H20. Apparently his interceding work on such "crowd-pleasing" fluff as Forever Young and My Father the Hero has softened his sensibilities.

The film's best moments come from veteran comic actress Betty White as a local woman who won't leave the area despite the "terror" taking place around her. But she can't save the film from being an argument for the recycling of celluloid. There's a surprise at the end which makes us look at her character in a whole new way, but even that doesn't make Lake Placid what I would call "interesting" ... or "entertaining" ... or "watchable"...

...or anything else mildly pleasant.


Paul Nicholas said...

You wrote... "This is a horror film". Actually, it's a SPOOF of a horror film. Oh, it may not be as funny as you expected or as well played, but it's definitely a spoof and should be seen, reviewed and judged as such!

Craig Clarke said...

You make a good point. But even a good spoof needs to play by the genre's rules while making fun of them, but this film simply throws the rules out the window.

I mean, honestly, Brendan Gleeson was nobody when this came out. There is no reason his character should have survived the entire film.

KentAllard said...

I got that is was a spoof, I just don't think it worked well as a spoof, either. I think to do one of those right, the creator has to have affection for the original genre he's sending up, and I don't think David Keeley has that. Miner has been disappointing for some time; his Day of the Dead was awful.

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