Starring John Schneider, Cloris Leachman, Sarah Lafleur, Sam MacMurray, Chad Collins, Alicia Ziegler
Directed by David Flores
I must admit upfront that I’m not a huge fan of the original Lake Placid. It was one of those movies that had stuff I did enjoy, but the film as a whole just never clicked with me. Not saying I thought it was a bad movie – just one that left me feeling like I could take it or leave it. As for this vastly inferior follow-up that Sony and the Sci-Fi Channel have thrust upon us, I’d much prefer to leave it. Though I’ve got a soft spot for movies about killer alligators and crocodiles, had I not been committed to reviewing Lake Placid 2 for this website, I probably would have turned this one off about the third time someone climbed up a tree to escape a crocodile.
I can sum up Lake Placid 2 with just a single word: lame. This movie is lame. Let me spell it out for you: L-A-M-E!
The humor of the original Lake Placid was tongue-in-cheek but with some genuinely quirky wit about it. I kind of felt that uneasy blending of quirky comedy and nature gone amok horror didn’t fully gel and occasionally took me out of the movie. Lake Placid 2 is also tongue-in-cheek, but the wit has been dumbed down in typical Sci-Channel fashion. Dialogue like, “I wouldn’t let you rub my feet even if you were the CEO of Prada,” and having someone utter the one-liner “After while, crocodile” before killing one of the crocs is what passes for clever here. This screenplay actually has a moment where John Schneider holding a gun gets startled by a rabbit and reacts by saying “I hate that rabbit” just like Elmer Fudd would.
Have I mentioned how lame this movie is?
Though none of the actors or the characters they portrayed in the original are back for the sequel, you can easily spot who is supposed to be who. Bill Pullman’s everyman lawman has been replaced with John Schneider’s everyman lawman. Naturalist and everyman lawman’s love interest Bridget Fonda has been replaced with a Fish & Game officer named Emma who is only the love interest because the script requires her to kiss John Schneider at the end of the movie. Oliver Platt’s eccentric croc expert has been replaced with “Tracey Ullman Show” alumnus Sam MacMurray playing a boisterous big game hunter who is actually a bumbling coward and needs his not-so-willing African bushman sidekick to save his butt more than once. Crazy Mrs. Bickerman, the cranky old lady who lived by the lake and was responsible for the crocodile played with foul-mouthed zeal by Betty White, has been replaced by another “Crazy” Mrs. Bickerman, Sadie, the less foul-mouthed sister of the Betty White character, played by Cloris Leachman in much the same way I imagine Nora Desmond on valium would portray the wicked witch in a production of Hansel & Gretel. Suffice to say, all of the characters in this sequel are pale shadows of the characters seen in the original.
But the makers of Lake Placid 2 realized there was something the original didn’t have they felt this sequel was in dire need of; of course I speak of teenagers in peril. Thank goodness, too, because lord knows I hate it when someone makes a horror movie that doesn’t somehow involve teenagers going off into the woods to party and die. Good thing the sheriff has a teenage son who has a potential girlfriend who has a bunch of annoying classmates who all decide to head off to a remote part of the lake for a camping trip or else we would have been denied the lame Jaws 2 scenario that encompasses way too much of the running time.
Did I just use the word lame again?
You can’t complain that there aren’t enough crocodile attacks in this one since the filmmakers have decided to up the ante by having multiple crocodiles on the prowl. That would be all well and good if not for the budget being so low as to barely make it capable of bringing even one crocodile to life convincingly. The best looking crocodile scenes are the ones where they used a prop instead of CGI – few and far between. Outside of a handful of nicely rendered shots, much of the computerized croc action is obviously animated, often looking almost inflatable. Worse yet, most of the kills (at least the ones that don’t take place off-camera) also overuse iffy CGI. Too many characters are shown getting digital limbs bitten off, leaving them with CGI bloody stumps spurting CGI blood – none of it looks as good as it would had it been done using practical, real world make-up effects. Fun and even an element of charm can be found watching crude yet practical special effects; rarely does that ever apply to crude computer effects. Even if everything else about this movie had sucked (and it all pretty much does), the croc attacks are the one thing the movie should have, could have delivered. Yet the over-reliance on questionable CGI for everything from the crocs to the croc victims to the crocs’ own deaths kills even that aspect.
You know what the first surefire sign of trouble was for me? This sequel (filmed on location in Bulgaria) is set in the same Maine lake town less than a decade since the 1999 original later; yet, when the topic of the events of the first movie are brought up for the only time, it’s all talked about as being a local urban legend that not everyone believes really happened. Seems the giant 30-foot croc on a flatbed truck being hauled to the zoo at the end of the original didn’t make the news, or else we – just like the other town locals in the sequel – are supposed to just forget about that major sticking point. Acknowledging the original’s climax would prevent the sequel from having characters immediately realize they have another crocodile problem and acting accordingly. Instead pretty much everyone has to run around in disbelief about the prospect of another croc incident and mock anyone that suggests otherwise for the first 25 minutes or so. I mean when they fish body parts out of the lake and the sheriff has to start talking about how it might have been a bear attack…
Have I fully stressed how lame this movie is yet?
Most of these unnecessary sequels of late are just name-only sequels anyway so I don’t see why they even bothered trying to tie this one into its predecessor. Without the new Mrs. Bickerman character this could just as easily have been a different town in a different part of the country that the writers could have just as easily come up with some B.S. reason to explain why big man-eating crocodiles are residing in their local lake. Then again, maybe not since the best explanation the writers could come up with to explain why there’s a new old lady Bickerman willingly raising enormous crocodiles and feeding people to them is that the Betty White version just vanished one day three years earlier. Not even an explanation as to why this sister also happens to be a crazy old lady who likes raising enormous crocodiles and feeding people to them. Are we’re supposed to believe that this personality quirk simply runs in the Bickerman family DNA?
I’m sorry, but this movie is not Lake Placid 2. This is Crocodile 3. What was made as a sequel to Lake Placid has far more in common with the movies of the Crocodile franchise, though this film would still be an unworthy follow-up even as a new installment in that franchise given how much better Crocodile 2: Death Swamp was than this.
Director David Flores is no stranger to making silly movies about big rampaging animals on the loose. This is the guy that made his directorial debut with the goofily entertaining Boa vs. Python, after all. That movie may not have been good in the conventional sense, but it had enough of what makes a bad movie fun. Not so lucky this time; the lame screenplay here gives him nothing to work with except pitiful attempts at humor and a by-the-numbers formula. ACT 1: investigate the crocs. ACT 2: attempt to capture the crocs while trying to stay alive. ACT 3: continue trying to stay alive before finally fighting back.
Lame – there’s that word again.
And lamest of the lame here is John Schneider, he most famously as the original Bo Duke on the “Dukes of Hazzard” TV show. There’s got to be some sort of special award that someone can dream up to give the man for his performance here. Schneider gives one of the most aloof performances I’ve ever seen. The man has been playing laid back characters in predominantly family fare for so long, always gliding by on his one-note folksy charm style of acting, that either he just cannot turn it off at this point or he doesn’t even realize that he’s doing it even in scenes where it’s highly inappropriate. He displays more intensity in an argument with his teenage son at the beginning of the film than he ever does watching friends and co-workers die gory deaths, or even when his own life is in peril for that matter. Emma is despondent over the deaths of some deputies, blaming herself; along comes Schneider to give her a pep talk in the same vocal manner a father comforting his little league son would after he’s dropped the ball and cost his team the game. “Sure, they got ripped up and chewed to pieces, but they knew the risks going in,” he tells her in disturbingly easygoing fashion. He then talks her up, not to kill the crocodiles that just slaughtered their coworkers, but to stop the big game hunter before he does something that might do harm to the fish population of the lake. It’s like he’s almost oblivious to the severity of the situation when he finishes his little speech with the line, “There’s still good fishing to be found here.” Is the man a sociopath?
1 out of 5
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