Anaconda (1997) / Horror-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, language and scary moments
Running Time: 89 min.
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Jon Voight, Ice Cube, Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, Jonathan Hyde, Kari Wuhrer, Vincent Castellanos, Danny Trejo
Director: Luis Llosa
Screenplay: Hans Bauer, Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.
Review published August 29, 2004
Either a terrible A-list movie or a great B-movie, depending on your point of view, Anaconda is by all accounts one of the schlockiest large budget releases to ever come from a major studio. Even taken on its own terms though, it's a failure, as the anacondas featured in the film evoke absolutely no scares, and the only pleasures to be found come from the cheese factor, some laughable lines, and one hell of an over-the-top performance by scene-stealer Jon Voight (Mission: Impossible, Tomb Raider). Although Voight does little to save Anaconda from collapsing from its own stupidity, at least he makes a knowingly bad film almost tolerable, with a tongue-in-cheek performance that lets you know that he's aware that he's in a crappy movie, and he's going to do whatever he can to entertain you in the interim.
Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight, The Cell) gets the starring nod as Terri Flores, a documentary filmmaker hired by anthropology professor, Dr. Steven Cale (Stoltz, 2 Days in the Valley), to get footage of a never-before-filmed South American tribe deep in the heart of the jungles of the Amazon. Things progress according to plan until they rescue a Paraguayan minister, Paul Sarone (Voight), who offers to navigate them through the dangerous terrain to find their tribe. However, mishaps begin to happen that force them to take a detour, where deadly anacondas await.
Very little makes sense in this "strictly for cheap thrills" production that doesn't even seem to be trying to rise above its pedestrian plot to give us something fresh. Anaconda sports a pretty decent cast of actors, and director Llosa (Sniper, The Specialist) has shown some flare for action flicks, so there originally was some reason to hope that the film could be a smart B-movie, like the first Tremors surprised everyone by being. Unfortunately, the poor characters development, silly script, and horrendous dialogue crushes all of these hopes in a hurry, as the more you see the phony looking CGI and puppet snakes, the more ridiculous it all seems to be.
With a total lack of realism, Anaconda could have been worth recommending as a lark, but only Voight seems to treat the material with any of the humor it deserves. The rest of the cast play the film as if it were going to be frighteningly horrific, so without any scares, all of their performances go to waste. Like the anaconda's prey, Anaconda is greedily consumed by its own regurgitated ideas. Lousy stuff from people who should know better.
-- Followed by an unrelated theatrical sequel, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, and two direct-to-TV knockoffs, Anaconda III: Offspring andAnacondas: Trail of Blood.
©2004 Vince Leo