A bloody death on a lake in Maine causes investigators to look into the possibility of a crocodile on a killing spree.
Steve Miner, 1999
When a man is somehow mysteriously chopped in half in a lake in Maine, an investigation into the “accident” takes place. Paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) comes out to the little town from New York, joining local sheriff Hank Keogh (Brendan Gleeson) and Fish & Game officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman) in the search for whatever mysterious creature bit a dude in half. Hearing rumours of a crocodile in Maine, kooky millionaire Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) comes out to join them. Eventually they discover that it is in fact a crocodile, which they basically already knew, and must track down the killer croc before it claims any more victims. Only all the victims are basically, you know, the guys going out looking for the crocodile. So if everybody just left it alone and allowed eccentric foul-mouthed local farmer Betty White to keep feeding it a steady diet of cows that she’s getting from somewhere mysterious, everything would be hunky dory. This movie makes no sense.
This movie is written by David E. Kelley. This makes sense, because nothing about this supposed horror movie is scary at all. I think I jumped once, but that was more because I wasn’t paying attention and then there was a sudden spike in the music. Of course, that wouldn’t matter so much if this supposed horror comedy delivered on the funny. It doesn’t do that either. It barely even delivers on gore; after the initial biting in half, we basically only get a couple of severed heads that are thrown at poor Bridget Fonda. Poor, poor Bridget Fonda is so mistreated by this film. It’s an incredibly misogynistic film; all the women in it are either shrieking harpies or sex maniacs. Betty White manages to pull off her deranged, swear-happy croc lover, because she is Betty White and has excellent comedic timing. Everybody else looks pained to be in this movie. Oliver Platt is giving it a red hot college try, but his character is so sleazily awful that no amount of mugging could improve him. Brendan Gleason and Bill Pullman are just bored. They don’t want to be there, and their characters’ underreactions to literally everything that happens is a result of that.
The biggest problem with Lake Placid is that its very thin plot isn’t held up at all because literally nobody is motivated to be where they are, doing what they’re doing. Once they find out that there’s a crocodile in the lake, the only logical thing to do would be to leave the croc alone, and tell people not to swim in the lake. They are constantly putting themselves in danger by going after the crocodile FOR NO REASON. At least with Oliver Platt that’s actually a character trait, but Bridget Fonda complains loudly and often about how she doesn’t want to be there. The only thing that seems to keep her in this movie is an inexplicable attraction to Bill Pullman’s bored jerk. They try to make a big deal out of their differences – He’s from the country! She’s from the city! What an odd couple! – but it comes across more like they straight up hate each other, which is understandable since they’re both awful. A lot of the film is bafflingly written, as if it’s meant to be funny and scary, but it was actually written by aliens who have seen Jaws and understand the setting for a joke without understanding what makes jokes funny. The movie ends abruptly, as though they just ran out of things to do with a GIANT KILLER CROCODILE and were like oh well, let’s just wrap this up. It’s bizarre. This movie isn’t really even a fun kind of bad.
Lake Placid on IMDb