Lake Placid

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Lake Placid

It takes about 20 lumbering minutes for Lake Placid to get done introducing its main characters: a straight-talking, Twinkie-eating sheriff in rural Maine (Brendan Gleeson), a rugged game warden (Bill Pullman), an uptight New York paleontologist (Bridget Fonda), and a loutish, obnoxious mythology professor and crocodile enthusiast (Oliver Platt). We know all about them, because we see Gleeson talking straight and eating Twinkies, we see Pullman smiling a crooked smile and looking rugged, we see Fonda flitting about and complaining about bugs, and we see Platt saying and doing loutish, obnoxious things when he's not waxing rhapsodic about the mythic beauty of crocodiles. Once the plot has been set in motion—the four must, with little backup or explanation, hunt a humongous crocodile and trade catty quips on, in, and near a lake in Maine—Lake Placid finally picks up steam and hurls itself through the motions. Anonymous deputy? Head bitten off. Rube Goldberg-esque crocodile traps? They keep catching Gleeson. And though Pullman and Fonda seem like total opposites, they couldn't be harboring a romantic attraction, now, could they? David E. Kelley's script often recalls his most smug, precious work on Ally McBeal and Picket Fences, complete with a scene in which daffy, foul-mouthed Betty White feeds the villainous beast a blindfolded cow. It doesn't help that, at 80 or so minutes, it feels like there's a reel missing—you know, the one with the finale that's even slightly more pulse-pounding than any of the four or five other scenes in which the big, impressive-looking monster attacks the heroes as their legs dangle in the water. The lazy finale makes Lake Placid seem more marginal and forgettable than it already was, which is actually something of a feat.

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