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Movie Review

A 30-foot crocodile terrorizes a remote lake in Maine. Yes, Maine. That's just one of the things that makes no sense in Lake Placid, a formulaic monster movie that's not nearly as hip as it thinks it is. The film opens with a scuba diver suddenly becoming half the man he used to be, courtesy of the hungry croc. Joining the crusty local sheriff and his shrinking staff of deputies are fish and game warden Jack Wells, nature-phobic paleontologist Kelly Scott and eccentric mythology professor Hector Cyr. A trail of body parts leads the team to the lakefront home of Mrs. Bickerman, a crazy old woman who has developed a relationship with the prehistoric predator by blindfolding cattle and leading them to the water's edge (couldn't she just buy a bird feeder?). Before long, personalities clash over the inevitable issue of whether to blow the croc's head off or simply tranquilize the creature and preserve it in the interest of science.

Positive Elements: Nice scenery. Also, it's a scant 82 minutes in length.

Spiritual Content: Hector gets a rush out of swimming with large crocs because he deifies them as ancient creatures with spiritual properties. Kelly adds, "Going back in history, crocodiles have been more worshipped than Jesus."

Sexual Content: One of Hector's defining character traits is a penchant for crass humor and inappropriate sexual remarks (anatomical slang, homosexual innuendo, etc.). A female deputy offers to sleep with Hector.

Violent Content: The body count isn't as high as one might expect. Still, extremely graphic moments following croc attacks include a decapitation and a diver being bitten in half below the waist (his upper torso is pulled back into the boat). A wormy human toe washes ashore, as does the aforementioned severed head which is grotesquely shown with a snake slithering out of the mouth. The crocodile drags a cow and a bear to their deaths. The sheriff decks Hector with a bone-crunching blow. Intense action scenes include the croc munching on a helicopter and pursuing humans. A second giant lake creature is blown to bits by the sheriff.

Crude or Profane Language: As shocking as the film's goriest moments is the vile language—especially from Betty White! The former Golden Girl embarrasses herself with nasty insults that would make Howard Stern blush. Fonda isn't any better. And Platt's sexual comments and liberal use of profanity make you wonder, if eaten, would he give the croc indigestion. The f-word gets a workout, and once even appears as the "middle name" of our Lord.

Drug and Alcohol Content: Jack invites Kelly to join him for a beer at a bar.

Other Negative Elements: The sheriff is shown urinating in a bush. Even when he's not being obscene, Hector displays an insulting tactlessness and disrespect for others.

Summary: Lake Placid can't seem to decide what it wants to be. It tries to generate a sense of dread while simultaneously winking at the audience with self-aware cynicism. It's as if Miner is saying, "We know we're not breaking any new ground here. Our monster is sub-par. The actors are phoning it all in. But since we've already got your money and convinced you that a tropical reptile could survive in New England, we'll just cliché our way through the minimum running time. Thanks for your patience." The first clue that Lake Placid would be a stagnant mess came when the studio opted to send out a two-page press release and a few fuzzy black-and-white glossies as the sum total of its efforts to court the media. They'd given up before the film ever opened. Realizing that this movie wouldn't charm critics or generate positive word of mouth from viewers, 20th Century Fox instead blew the wad on advertising to pull in as many people as possible opening weekend. Even then, Lake Placid only surfaced at number three, barely treading water with earnings of less than $11 million. Good. Maybe in weeks to come this violent, gory, profane waste of time will sink to even murkier box-office depths.

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Credits

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R

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Author

Cast

Bill Pullman as Jack Wells; Bridget Fonda as Kelly Scott; Oliver Platt as Hector Cyr; Brendan Gleeson as Sheriff Hank Keough; Betty White as Mrs. Bickerman

Director

Steve Miner ( Texas RangersHalloween H2O)

Distributor

20th Century Fox

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Reviewer

Bob Smithouser

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