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...
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...