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Teen Movie Critic

Jamey Hughton

July 21, 1999

Jamey Hughton is a 15 yr old student in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He has written a weekly published column, MOVIE VIEWS for The StarPhoenix, the Saskatoon daily paper, since November, 1997. He was honoured to be a 1999 Writing Finalist in the Canadian YTV Achievement Awards.

He maintains a Web site MOVIE VIEWS by Jamey Hughton.

His reviews are now also found at: IMDb, MRQE and the Newsgroup.

Lake Placid

Lake Placid is probably the best rampaging crocodile movie Iíve ever seen. Oh wait...itís the only one Iíve ever seen. Yes, ruling out 1980ís Alligator (which, of course, was about a rampaging alligator), Lake Placid is in a league of itís own. Or... is it?

The set-up is short and sweet. After a mysterious and grizzly murder on a small lake in Maine, local Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) calls in the necessary officials. They include Fish and Game warden Jack Wells (Bill Pullman) and New York palaeontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda). After they bicker for a while about the greeny locales and buggy atmosphere, the group stumbles upon something very interesting inhabiting the lake. Hint: itís not a giant mutated beaver. Itís a 30-foot crocodile which has supposedly swam all the way from Asian waters and found a home in the peaceful confines of Black Lake. An eccentric local woman (played by Golden Girl Betty White) has adopted the giant reptile as a pet, feeding it her own livestock on a regular basis.

Lake Placid was written by David E. Kelley (creator of Ally McBeal and The Practice) in a campy, ludicrous but shamelessly entertaining fashion. The croc hunt is merely an excuse to unite Kelleyís quirky characters in a unique situation. Yes, this film is essentially a comedy with a premise that could be easily mistaken for horror.

Creature effects wizard Stan Winston does an impressive job with the scaly monster. But there is a depressing lack of crocodile action. The best scene happens early on, when the beast attacks a helpless bear by slamming it around like a sack of quivering potatoes. Those expecting a thrill-ride should avoid at all costs, but Lake Placid does have a delightful sense of humor to at least compensate for some of it's shortcomings.

The cast tries hard to salvage the material. Fonda is originally fun, but it soon becomes clear that Kelley is using her character as the "woman in distress", and little more. She falls out of a boat about eighteen times, and whines constantly. Pullman is earnest and charming, but carelessly wasted. Needless to say, the movie belongs to two of the supporting players. Irish actor Brendan Gleeson breaks through the restrictions of his two-dimensional character and delivers an enjoyable portrait of a distraught small town sheriff. And Oliver Platt continues his string of authentic loons, playing an uninvited mythology professor named Hector Cyr who regards crocodiles as treasured, "godly" creatures. The insults exchanged between Hector and the sheriff are consistently the best and funniest in the movie.

But somewhere, the fun expires. While Kelleyís script delivers unexpected laughs, it becomes unclear whether they are intentional or lamely forced. Of course, similarities to Jaws are obvious. How could you make an underwater creature feature without avoiding them? Lake Placid is ridiculously plotted, silly summertime entertainment for less demanding viewers in need of bloody carnage. But folks, for a horror/comedy about a lakeside man-eating crocodile, this ainít half bad.

My Rating = Two Stars

Jamey Hughton can be reached directly at movieviews@hotmail.com.
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