Lake Placid Movie Review

"Lake Placid" is a sub-standard monster movie with such a greatcast of enjoyable stars you won't even care that it's bad.

Star number one: Bridget Fonda, who plays a lab jockeypaleontologist, an indoor kind of girl sent to a remote lake in Maine toexamine what appears to be a prehistoric tooth found in the remains ofa Fish and Game scuba diver, bitten in half by creature or creatures unknown.

Star number two: The criminally under-recognized BrendanGleeson ("The General," "Braveheart"), playing a lemon-facedlocal sheriff who lets it be known he wants nothing to do with sarcasticcity slickers coming to his county and calling themselves "experts"on this and that.

And boy are they sarcastic (more about the stars in a minute).The movie's saving grace -- what keeps the absurdity enjoyable -- is theconstant pot shots traded between scientists, local law enforcement, aneccentric old lady who lives on the lake and knows more than she's willingto say (enter Betty White -- star number three -- at her ironically foul-mouthedbest), and an even more eccentric, mercenary and motor-mouthed millionaire(Oliver Platt -- number four, and also under-appreciated) with his ownhelicopter and a dogmatic mania for...crocodiles.

Knowing this much, you can guess the rest: Somewhere inthis murky but picturesque, and inexplicably isolated lake lurks a giganticand incredibly well-rendered CGI croc that eats grizzly bears in a singlebite and chomps the heads off of extras who lean too far over the sidesof boats.

Written by "Ally McBeal" creator David E. Kelley,"Lake Placid" isn't particularly scary or clever. Visually andprogressively it follows without deviation a three-act outline cementedby decades of monster movies, and at times it makes no sense whatsoever(why would "no one live within 25 miles" of a gorgeous, idylliclake in New England?).

The characters are stock and the croc is, ultimately, theone audiences root for when Gleeson and Fish and Game guy Bill Pullman("Zero Effect," "Independence Day") want to kill it. Fonda and Platt,of course, want to tranquilize it and move it to a nature reserve or something.

Even the smart remarks aren't all that funny on paper,although Kelley gets points for having his characters sass each other inlayers and rhythms weakly reminiscent of a Howard Hawks comedy.

But it's because of Fonda, Pullman, Gleeson, White andespecially Platt -- and their rabid enjoyment of their ruthlessly acerbicdialogue -- that this otherwise dismissable drive-in flick lands in thatinexplicable category called Good Dumb Fun.


Lake Placid Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, Friday, July 16, 1999


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