Directed By: Steve Miner
Starring: Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt
Tag line: "You'll never know what bit you"
Trivia: This film was a financial success at the box office and was followed by three made-for-television sequels
1999’s Lake Placid, a horror / comedy directed by Steve Miner, has some of the most obnoxious characters I’ve ever come across. I’m talking really obnoxious, to the point that I actually wished them bodily harm. It’s a shame, too, because, at its heart, Lake Placid is a decent monster movie (in this case, the “monster” is a humongous crocodile), and at times is a fairly entertaining watch.
Black Lake, a picturesque body of water situated in the wilds of Maine, is a normally peaceful spot where campers and hikers gather for a little rest and relaxation. That all changes, however, when a game warden tasked with tagging beavers is bitten in half by an unknown creature, lurking just beneath the water’s surface. To try and determine what it was that killed him, Sheriff Keough (Brendan Gleeson) teams up with Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), a Ranger with the Fish and Game Department. Unfortunately, their investigation is hampered by a pair of researchers, both of whom insist on tagging along: Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda), a paleontologist working for a museum in New York who’s sent by her boss (Adam Arkin) to check out a large tooth removed from the dead man’s carcass; and Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt), a mythology professor / millionaire who has dedicated his life to studying crocodiles. Neither Wells nor Sheriff Keough believe a Crocodile was responsible for the attack, mostly because the reptile would have had to swim thousands of miles to get there (they aren’t native to this area of the world). Despite their protests, however, Cyr remains convinced that a crocodile has settled in Black Lake, and is willing to do just about anything to prove it.
The collection of so-called “professionals” gathered together to look into the mystery of Black Lake (the locals wanted to name the body of water “Lake Placid”, but were told that name was taken) are grating to a fault. As played by Fonda, Kelly is a stuck-up bitch who’s only there because her boss, with whom she was having a romantic relationship, recently dumped her, and wanted her out of the office for a while to give her time to cool down. So, as you can imagine, she had a bad attitude to start with, and it only gets worse when she’s forced to camp in the woods (she hates bugs, worms, and pretty much everything else that lives in the wilderness). Kelly is also sarcastic (when Wells points out that she’s obviously never been to Maine before, Kelly responds “I have good hygiene. I’m not welcome”), but isn’t half as abrasive as Oliver Platt’s Hector Cyr, the spoiled rich brat who seldom utters a line without insulting someone, his main target being the dim-witted Sheriff Keough (While on the lake looking for the Crocodile, Cyr says to the portly Keough “You know, sheriff, when friends or family say certain things, they tend not to register, so it helps to hear it from a complete stranger... you're fat”). Yet as bad as Kelly and Hector are, the most cynical character in Lake Placid is the aptly named Mrs. Bickerman, a little old lady (and the lake’s only full-time resident) played by none other than Betty White, whose constant sarcasm is peppered with plenty of foul language. The problems I had with these characters were in no way the fault of the performers; Fonda, Platt, and White do the best they can with the material they’re given. The fault lies with screenwriter David E. Kelley, who in trying to bring a little comic relief to his film instead created a trio of characters I would never want to meet in real life.
If you like monster movies, and think you can put up with these three pain-in-the-asses for 90 minutes, then I do recommend Lake Placid. The crocodile itself is damn cool (brought to life by special effects wizard Stan Winston and his crew), as are the scenes where we get to see the creature in action (along with a nifty sequence in which a deputy’s head is bitten off, there’s a later scene involving a huge bear that you won’t soon forget).
But if you do take a trip to Lake Placid, don’t be surprised if you find yourself rooting for the croc.