Described as a horror comedy, but missing the mark on both fronts, Lake Placid should have been the spiritual successor to the 1980 movie Alligator. Instead, it’s a boorish, plot-hole ridden, and disappointing watch with a baffling cast.
There is something in the waters of Black Lake, Aroostook County, Maine and palaeontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) has been sent to investigate. Something she is dead against, seeing as she has never been in the field before. However, her boss and recent ex-boyfriend, forces her to go, where she meets Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) and Fish and Game officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman).
Kelly is rude and obnoxious to the pair, seeing as she’s a city girl and they’re just a pair of dumb country hicks, but they’re all united when it comes to dealing with Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt). A rich and even more obnoxious crocodile enthusiast who believes a croc has made its home within the lake.
Is he right? Well, the film takes an age revealing that, and when it does, promptly forgets about it so we can watch a mish-mash of characters and actors attempt to have chemistry and create stories. From the first moment they appear on screen, you know that Pullman’s Jack and Fonda’s Kelly are going to fall in love, especially as they seem to dislike each other so much at first. It’s an exhausting trope, made all the worse by the pair having very few actual scenes together and lacking the required chemistry to pull it off.
This is neither actors best work and it speaks volumes that the ‘comedic’ pairing of Platt’s Hector and Gleeson’s Hank are more of a believable couple.
If you’re watching Lake Placid for well-written and interesting characters, you’re in the wrong place. Yet, of course, we’re all here for the croc and on that front, Lake Placid simply drops the ball. Not only is it barely in it, it’s not enough of a threat and when it’s revealed that it’s lived in the lake for years having been fed by local farmer, Delores Bickerman (Betty White), it just becomes stupid.
So no-one noticed the gigantic croc before? She somehow didn’t run out of food to feed it? No-one in the town noticed her diminishing herds? Even her missing husband is played off as a joke, with it later being revealed that the crocodile ate him. It’s extremely dumb writing which might have been more forgivable if the movie was playing it dumb, but it’s not. Lake Placid is extremely serious a lot of the time, with odd slapstick moments designed to try and make you laugh (they don’t).
All of this is to its detriment as there are areas that are more positive than expected. One being the look of the crocodile, with the effects holding up nicely. Another being a cast more than capable of delivering gold, if the writing was stronger.
It’s kind of amazing that this film, which wasn’t received well at the time and didn’t make a ton of money, actually spawned five made-for-television sequels. Hopefully some of those are more of an interesting watch than this.
Lake Placid (1999)
The Final Score - 4/10