Lake Placid is a simple film to sum up: a giant crocodile in Maine. That’s about it. That one lone sentence fragment aptly summarizes the completely ridiculous premise of this comic thriller. It’s not much of a movie, and what little there is is completely implausible.
It seems that on Black Lake (no, not Lake Placid) in a remote section of Maine, a giant 30-foot crocodile has taken up residence. After the croc munches a diver, Sheriff Keough (Brendan Gleeson) calls in the experts. Enter Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), from Fish and Game, who’s never had a crocodile encounter until now.
Providing the crocodile experience is uninvited guest, the ultra rich Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt). There is nothing the eccentric Hector loves to do better than to swim with the crocodiles, whom he considers divine. Normally, an outsider such as Hector would be quickly dismissed. However, he has plenty of expensive tracking equipment that Wells and Keough utilize to hunt the mighty beast.
Rounding out the team of experts is Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda), a New York paleontologist who is definitely not made for the woods. Sent on this boondoggle assignment by her ex-boyfriend boss, Kelly has little to do other than make barbed quips and get in jeopardy.
The structure of the Giant Beast movie hasn’t changed much since Jaws made its splash nearly twenty-five years ago. Beast attacks, oddball team assembles, oddball team bonds, oddball team does something foolish, beast attacks, and repeat. For a Giant Beast film, Lake Placid has a surprisingly light body count, though the victims that do get bitten by the big one exit in a most gory manner.
Lake Placid tries to step away from the formula with some swift scriptwriting. The script to this film is so heavy with sarcasm that it’s sticky to the touch. Everyone in this film seems to have a chip on their shoulder, and a sharp tongue to match. Unfortunately, most of their time the dialogue errs on the ridiculous side.
All of the characters are written to be sympathetic, but instead most come across as whiney. Brendan Gleeson’s sheriff emerges as the most likable. Gleeson’s weary presence elevates his role above the flimsy stereotype. It’s a close tie between Bridget Fonda and Oliver Platt as to who most deserves being chomped in two. Although Fonda’s character is annoying right off the bat, Platt makes up for it in spades when his character finally graces the screen.
The plot fails to make any unexpected moves. No satisfactory answer is ever given to several crucial questions. Why is the crocodile in Maine? Why hasn’t he ever been noticed before? Why is the film titled “Lake Placid”, anyway? Why should we even continue watching this movie?
The special effects are decent, though obviously computer generated. Still, it’s not everyday that you get to watch a giant reptile munch on local Maine wildlife. The final showdown is well set up, but a bit of a letdown when it unfolds.
Perhaps the best giant crocodile movie out there, Lake Placid simply collapses when held to a higher standard.