Anaconda - * 1/2*

Anaconda is an uninspired monster movie about, you guessed it, a giant anaconda. Dr. Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz) is an anthropologist searching the Amazon rainforest for the lost Shirishama tribe. Tagging along for the trip is his girlfriend, Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez), an aspiring director, who hopes to make a documentary covering the search. The film crew she brings along are: cameraman Danny Rich (Ice Cube), soundman Gary (Owen Wilson), his lover, production assistant Denise (Kari Wuhrer), and pompous narrator Warren Westridge (Jonathan Hyde). However, when the river barge runs across a mysterious man, Paul Sarone (Jon Voight), the lone survivor of a shipwreck. Soon, Sarone has surreptitiously taken charge of the voyage, and leads them on a hunt for a giant anaconda. Now, as this movie has the subtlety of Friday the 13th, you know that the crew will be picked off one by one by the slithering menace. Unfortunately for the film, its not much a menace. There’s not one appearance by the giant snake that doesn’t scream “SPECIAL EFFECT!!!” The CGI snake is obviously animated, and the animatronic one is stiff and mechanical. To top it off, the fella doesn’t have any personality. Sure, they try to borrow features from Aliens (there’s a warrior and a queen snake, and at one point the snake drools), but none of it sticks. Heck, it even uses the stock “It’s a perfect killing machine” speech. The producers of the film don’t do themselves any favors either. One potential shocker is nullified by the declaration of the anaconda’s unusual eating habits in a bit of pretitle text. (Why they didn’t just use a piece of explanatory dialogue is beyond me). If there’s any delight in this movie it is from the way over the top performance of Jon Voight, who seems to realize he’s in a bad movie, but decided to have a hell of a good time anyhow. What would make a snake hunter like his tick? The movie never tells (I was expecting something along the traditional lines of a “A Snake Ate My Mama” speech), but you can’t expect a boatload of characterization from a movie like Anaconda. But Voight gets his fair share of throwaway lines and ominous speeches. The rest of the crew are only snakefood, and they have the flimsiest of backgrounds. Well, okay, there are some survivors, but you wouldn’t want me to spoil who now, would you? Besides, it should be obvious for anyone who’s ever watched a monster flick before who will live and who will die. This film is certainly not going to surprise anyone.

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