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Moriarty reviews LAKE PLACID. "

Hey everyone, Harry Here with the old man's review of LAKE PLACID, a movie I'm now dying to see. Now I know that sounds ridiculous... but folks. It's a giant Alligator movie. And ya know, there's something amazingly beautiful about that mere concept. Now I'm real sorry if alot of you folks don't have a giant alligator fetish because you weren't scared shitless by that old ALLIGATOR movie from the seventies, but ya know... I was. Now, having talked to the venerable old coot that wrote this review, I can tell ya... there was a bit of glee in his voice. I asked him how it compared to TREMORS, cause that was the thoughtline I was thinking this movie was aiming for, and he said, "Harry, my boy," note: Moriarty is not my father, "I liked LAKE PLACID the way most people that really dig TREMORS dig that movie." Well, stuff me full of petrol and light me up, I'm there!

Hey, Head Geek...

"Moriarty" here.

After returning from Westwood tonight, I actually had to doublecheck and make sure I hadn't started in motion any plans to end the world or anything. I was feeling that off-balance, that disoriented. That happens when I see a film that confounds my expectations completely, and it happened tonight. I guess I have no choice but to offer my unreserved recommendation of LAKE PLACID, and I do so with a big damn smile on my face.

Writer David E. Kelly and director Steve Miner have done something that I honestly wouldn't have thought possible. They took a film that exists solely as a formula picture, they played firmly within the rules (no post-modern spin here a la SCREAM), and they still managed to come up with something that never stops trying to entertain you for the full 80-something minutes it's onscreen.

Don't get me wrong, here. I'm not saying this is a brilliant movie or a must-see. What I'm saying is that the film is more entertaining in every scene than any film about a giant crocodile on a rampage in Maine has any right to be. Part of that is the constant wit of the screenplay. Anyone who is a fan of Kelly's writing for TV will see his fingerprints on the film from the opening moments to the last. The dialogue crackles, and there are real characters here, not just types.

The actors are also largely responsible for this. Bridget Fonda is a credible human center for the film, and Bill Pullman provides a nice counterpoint for her. Betty White has a great small role that will make anyone who knows her TV work laugh hard. It's strange to hear her swear like Eric Cartman. Meredith Salenger has been missing in action for a while, but she makes an impression as one of the local deputies. The standouts are Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Platt, though. If you don't know Gleeson, you will soon. He was nothing short of brilliant in last year's THE GENERAL, and he is consistently hysterical and honest in his work here as the town's sheriff who knows that everyone is being sarcastic to him, but who isn't quite able to fight back. Oliver Platt plays an eccentric mythology professor who travels the world to swim with crocodiles, and his character could have easily become a joke or a gag, but Platt manages to show us what's going on behind the eccentricity, and he makes the character deeply likeable.

Then there's Steve Miner. I'll admit right up front that I've never had any sort of love for the guy's work, but he brings a sly professionalism to this film that pushes the whole package over the top. He's pulled together the work of some outstanding collaborators -- John Ottman's score, Stan Winston's animatronic croc, and Digital Domain's handful of shots are the standouts -- and delivered a film that is fully aware of what it is from the beginning to the end. So often, filmmakers try and disguise movies like this, afraid to embrace them as the simple monster movies they are. Not Miner. He brings no pretension to the film, and he's certainly not embarrassed or slumming. He has fun with it, with his cast, and it shows.

This is the first creature picture in quite a while that's worked all the way through for an audience while watching it, and it's nice to be reminded of the simple joys of filmmaking. I don't have to have someone reinvent the wheel everytime out. So often, I get e-mail after a review runs yelling at me because I've forgotten how to just "enjoy a movie." The problem is, I can't enjoy myself if I feel that the movie doesn't respect me as a viewer. With this picture, everyone has found exactly the right note to strike, and there's a confidence that will leave you grinning.

Don't come crying to me after you see it and say, "It was just a movie about a giant crocodile," either. There's no deception going on here. The ads are honest, and I'm being as direct as I can. If you're in the right mood, though, I can say with utter confidence that you are going to have a great time. If David E. Kelly's MYSTERY, ALASKA is half this entertaining, then it looks like TV's going to have to share one of their most valuable players with us from now on.

Let me take a brief moment to assure everyone who's written me about it, I'm still sorting through my notes for the LORD OF THE RINGS review, and I'm trying to balance my desire to share with you the glory and magic of Peter's adaptation with my desire to preserve the mystery somewhat. Remember... we're still almost 2 years away. With the announcements of Elijah Wood and Sean Astin, though, I can feel the excitement beginning. I'm going to take my time and present something to you that will share just how much excitement I'm feeling. Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • July 11, 1999, 10:41 p.m. CST

    I'm first, probably, and nobody cares.

    by Zeylan

    I'm sorry, but the whole premise of a fuckin' alligator in Maine is lame. No two ways about it.

  • July 11, 1999, 10:45 p.m. CST

    Moby Says: Lake Plastic

    by Moby

    This is really not that scary, I'm told. I hear from some sources that the humor is great and carries the movie(Dave Poland) and that the humor is just awful as is the rest of the jaw-droppingly awful movie(James Berardinelli). It could be good or bad, but I'm certainly more excited about The Haunting and Deep Blue Sea. RED SECTOR ONE at

  • July 11, 1999, 10:53 p.m. CST


    by misterWINKIE

    YUP....:) just hope it is good enough

  • July 11, 1999, 10:54 p.m. CST

    twister was the last good formula pic

    by halfway

    There hasn't been any good movies that use the standard adventure, forces of nature scenario since twister and that's only because of the effects. Something about a giant alligator doesn't scare me much. Probably cuz they wasted the best scenes in the trailer. And the only reason twister worked is because the formula was used so well an it didn't try to be more intelligent that it had to be

  • July 11, 1999, 10:55 p.m. CST

    I'm thrid. I'm so excited I splooghed my pants.

    by Tall_Boy

    yay. Killer Alligators. Please, bomb you sonofabitch. . . (and dear god, don't have my girl drag me to this movie, let us go see "Eyes Wide Shut" instead, okay?!) PS- is this Moriarty AICN? Where's Harry's reviews?

  • July 11, 1999, 10:57 p.m. CST

    make that fifth

    by Tall_Boy

    I know you don't care. Neither do I but its 1:54 AM and I don't wanna go to bed. . .

  • July 12, 1999, 12:09 a.m. CST

    Some notes on Placid

    by Alessan

    1. Isn't Maine Steve King territory? I wouldn't think he would allow outside monsters on his turf. Kelly, look out! He may be down but he sure as hell ain't out! 2. It's good that Oliver Playy is getting some roles. I've never seen him in a scene he didn't steal. Oh, and: is swimming with crocodiles like swimming with dolphins? How about giving birth? 3. Isn't Gleeson Little Hamish from Braveheart? Goodie!

  • July 12, 1999, 5:09 a.m. CST

    Ode to Tremors?

    by Milo_357

    "I liked LAKE PLACID the way most people that really dig TREMORS dig that movie." Holy effing shoot the monkey with Ralph the screaming wonder fish. Hot Damn, I've been waiting for something like Tremors since, well, you know... I can't wait for this flick. Platt rocks. "this was given to me be the Czarina of America" please....

  • July 12, 1999, 5:23 a.m. CST


    by Ignatius Reilly

    I'm quite looking forward to seeing this now. To be anal for a moment, this is a crocodile movie, not, as Harry suggested, an alligator movie. Crocodiles are larger, and more ancient.

  • July 12, 1999, 5:46 a.m. CST


    by W. Leach

    For me, the definitive giant monster movie of the last few years is ANACONDA. What can you say about a movie where Jon Voight is devoured and then regurgitated by a giant snake?

  • July 12, 1999, 7:45 a.m. CST

    Rip-off from the X-files

    by 72gedt

    Eighty minutes? Male and female investigators on the trail of a crocidile in a rustic lake location, with goofy one liners about the sherrif and the backward locals? Gee, wasn't that an episode of the X-files? How quickly we forget.

  • July 12, 1999, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Alligators / Graboids

    by holomorphic

    I'm frankly a little stunned at the parallel drawn between this film and "Tremors". On the other hand, the trailer for "Placid" is so uncomfortably bad while containing halfway respectable actors that the only explanation for the film's existence can be that it really is a new entry into the "comic camp B-movie" horror genre. However, I think it's safe to say that at $8 a hit, this movie will fail miserably. Why don't they attempt to charge half price for "cheesefest horror schlock" or something? It's gotten to the point where I'm either paying for the work of a thousand talented computer animators (e.g. Star Wars), or I'm paying to see the work of a filmmaker who pushes the boundaries of convention (e.g. Eyes Wide Shut, Blair Witch Project). I don't have time for half-hearted attempts to recreate the glory of Ron Underwood's killer-worm masterpiece.

  • July 12, 1999, 10:08 a.m. CST

    have mercy please

    by lerner

    is there any movie out there that moriarty does not have a glowing review for? enough of this bullshit. stop applauding all the lame shit that is coming out. first bowfinger and now this. come on man. every movie gets undisputed accolades from you. where has all the biting sarcasm gone? hve you lost yourself completely in the ass of hollywood. please stop puckering, it is making me nauseous.

  • July 12, 1999, 10:37 a.m. CST

    RE: lerner

    by mckracken

    "is there any movie out there that moriarty does not have a glowing review for?" Obviously Lerner never read Moriarty's "glowing review" for "Wild Wild West" HAHAH!!! I was whole heartedly surprised by the success of ANACONDA that I actually might go see this. After moderatly liking H20 by Steve Miner I might appreciate this a bit more than any other movie. --McK

  • July 12, 1999, 12:38 p.m. CST


    by JaneDoe33

    I don't know how good the movie's gonna be, but they've already got my $8 after seeing that great trailer! Wow! That movie's gonna make at least $30 or 35 million opening weekend. (Maybe even 50 million) I think it might even beat TITANIC's record at the box office. I don't see how it couldn't. Everyone and their mom is gonna see that damn thing. Did you see that part on the trailer where the one guy goes: "He didn't eat me." And then the other guy goes: "Because he just ate a cow, stupid!" Oh, man! That's too much! You go girl! STAR WARS EPISODE ONE look out!

  • July 12, 1999, 12:42 p.m. CST

    Meredith Salenger?!

    by METHOS

    Holy shit! I think I'll go rent "The Journey of Natty Gann" and the truly awful "Dream a Little Dream" just to be sure. I have a very large pain threshold. However I do believe that the definitive Steve Miner movie is the memorable "Friday the 13th 3-D." That movie never fails to make howl with laughter. Cheech and Chong and teen flick crap with Dana (Kimberly's friend on Diff'rent Strokes) Kimmel meets Jason discovering his first hockey mask complete with all the cheesy 3D "magic." Of course, people went in droves in '83. Last week I saw a midnight show of the original "Friday the 13th," it amazed me that a large group of kids showed up, and the movie still worked on them. Some of them actually got scared. I was surprised. I guess New Line should stop being so picky about the franchise, and start churning 'em out like Paramount used to do. Here's to part 1 and 2 on DVD in October!

  • July 12, 1999, 1:09 p.m. CST

    Alligator McBeal?

    by raydeck

    I wonder whether the soul who penned this crododilic celluloid is the man who brought us Chicago Hope, the Practice and (god help him) Ally McBeal? The IMDB profile makes me think so, but does anyone have more solid data?

  • July 12, 1999, 5:09 p.m. CST

    Ever seen a croc up close before?

    by Das Ringking

    Alligators and crocidiles are two DIFFERENT species and they are distant cousins to each other. Most alligators can grow up to 15 to 20 feet, depending on where the alligators' primary habitats (like in southern USA or in Africa) whereas crocidiles can grow to a whopping 25 to 30 feet, in some exceptional cases, can grow to 33 feets in lenght! Talk about BIG! The crocs are exclusively predators, carnivorous in nature. They can take and kill any large animal, even a huge water buffalo! The latter in which I saw this in awe in a National Geographic special on crocidiles in Africa and I screamed, "Sweet Jesus!" when a huge crocidile just grabbed an adult water buffalo like a piece of paper while attempting to cross a creek. As soon as this croc got a leghold on that water buffalo, three other crocs rushed in very quickly and completely devoured the hapless water buffalo in the matter of minutes! PRE-HISTORIC crocidiles are twice bigger than the modern crocidiles! I personally saw the entire skeleton of a pre-historic crocidile at the Smithsonian Musueum of Natural History and get this size: 75 feet in length!! The head itself is the bigger than me which is 6'1". If you see a real croc in front of you, be very afraid...

  • July 12, 1999, 6:30 p.m. CST


    by Powerslave

    ...that's what they should have called this one. It looks amusing enough, in a campy sort of way. As for the discussion of 'Twister' being the last good formula picture, don't get me started on that one. 'Twister?' Ugh...

  • July 12, 1999, 8:09 p.m. CST

    Lake Flacid!

    by RadioGuy

    Just got back from an LP sneak. Gotta say a few things... 1) Fonda comes off like a pissed-off Ally McBeal 2) Betty White's few lines are worth $8 alone (yes I am serious) 3) This movie is Anaconda with a better script. 4) WAY TOO FRICKIN SHORT! Come on 80 minutes... It felt like a TV movie... It could have gone for another 20 - 30 minutes easily! 5) There are a few Scream-style "aren't we clever" lines... A fun flick but way too short...

  • July 14, 1999, 6:22 a.m. CST

    Not the movie I saw

    by Joe Buck

    Did we see the same movie, Moriarty? This movie combines every bad horror movie cliche with a Jaws ripoff to create the worst movie I've seen in a theatre this year. I cannot stress enough how awful it is. Fake scares, bad CGI, wooden acting (including Bridget Fonda's worst performance), and a terrible script create a miserable experience. We see that the characters can kill the croc 15 min. into the movie, destroying any sort of power or fear the creature could have otherwise inspired. Aspiring screenwriters everywhere should take heart that this load of crap was greenlighted and given $30M. Avoid at all costs, its not worth seeing even to laugh at. You geek types may get a perverse pleasure out of MST3K'ing this, but believe me, that's the only possible pleasure that could be gained from this excrement. I'm floored that Moriarty praises Steve Miner's direction. This is the most ham-fisted crap this side of a Friday the 13th flick. EVERY cliched shot is present: the croc stalking POV, legs kicking under water, numerous fake scares before the creature attacks. The script reeks of this as well: character conflicts punctuated by horrible one-liners, romantic interludes, plus giving the sherrif the ability to easily kill the creature 15 minutes into the movie pretty much destroys any tension and cheapens the creature, as if the crap CGI didn't do that already. The movie's score is insulting in the way it blatantly rips off Jaws. I especially enjoyed the Pullman/Fonda romantic interlude music:) Save your cash, this is the worst movie I've seen this year (and I've seen 40+ '99 releases fo I've got a pretty good frame of reference).

  • Aug. 10, 2006, 7:25 p.m. CST

    It all goes up his nose.

    by Wolfpack