Lake Placid (1999) / Horror-Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for violent creature attacks and related gore, and for language
Running time: 82 min.

Cast: Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, Betty White
Director: Steve Miner
Screenplay:
David E. Kelley
Review published July 20, 1999

Some murky lake in the middle of Maine (which isn't the real Lake Placid) is home to a 30-foot long gargantuan crocodile which is consuming much of the wildlife around it, including a human or two. The fish and game warden of the area and a New York paleontologist head to the location to investigate the source of the mayhem. A world-renowned wealthy professor also comes on the scene since he has some sort of crazy crocodile fetish. But the group may have bitten off more than they can chew when they realize the crocodile isn't easily contained.

LAKE PLACID makes the wise decision of being mercifully short enough not to get the lowest rating. Clocking in at a smidge over 80 minutes, it is a sure waste of time, but at least it doesn't overstay it's welcome any longer than it has to. Curiously, while the film seems to be missing a thrilling climax despite a few confrontations with the giant crocodile. even more curious is the relative lack of killing for a JAWS-clone, which makes one wonder whether they intended a low kill count or if they merely ran out of money before production ended.

Either way, you know you're in for a bad film for many reasons other than the idiotically cheesy plot. Bill Pullman stars in it for one, Oliver Platt is the comic relief for another, and when they can't find anyone better than Betty White for a supporting role, you know they just don't care about making a good movie anymore. Bridget Fonda, who has shown she can be good in light comedic roles, is frustratingly wasted in a role that is reminiscent of the Kate Capshaw character in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, whereby all she does in the film is cringe at "icky stuff" and get herself into trouble by falling out of any and all vehicles she happens to enter. In casting her as a paleontologist, they must have thought that since she looks a little like Jodie Foster, she might look like she has her intelligence as well. Wrong.

It isn't all bad. Credit the film for some nice cinematography and an impressively realistic creature. However, the films sole assets speak to what's wrong with the film as a whole. More attention is given to the look of the film, that characters and casting took a backseat to the detriment of the overall production. LAKE PLACID also makes the fatal mistake of taking itself too seriously for what is obviously a dumb scare flick, with none other than Oliver Platt hamming around the lake making us all hope he'll keep most of his clothes on before going in the water.

LAKE PLACID is as bereft of original ideas as a movie can be, raping ideas liberally from JAWS and all of it's clones over the years, and the mere title of the film speaks to how dumb the writers of the screenplay are. There even has been a killer alligator movie done before (ALLIGATOR), although the fact that this is a crocodile may have cause the producers to think they were making something truly original. Despite having higher production values and better actors than most cheesy monster flicks of it's ilk, it's still astonishingly worse than most of them, delivering absolutely no thrills or scares for the duration. Nice scenery and special effects aren't enough to make a movie, folks. Maybe they should have just changed the name from LAKE PLACID to OH, WHAT A CROC(K), and called it a day.

Qwipster's rating:

1999 Vince Leo