Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Lake Placid
USA 1999, dir. Steve Miner, stars Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman
Three cheers for Steve Miner. In an era when Hollywood seems to think that, if a film isn’t two-and-a-half hours long, people will feel short-changed, it’s a real joy to find a director who seems hell bent on making his films as short as possible. He started as he meant to go on with the 87-minute Friday The 13th Part 2 in 1981, whose lake-set final jolt may come to mind l at several points during this movie. His last three pictures – My Father The Hero (1994), Big Bully (1996), Halloween H20 (1998) – clocked in at 90, 90 and 85 minutes, and now he’s broken his own record with the 82-minute Lake Placid.
None of these films could be called masterpieces, but with Halloween H20 and Lake Placid Miner has now put together back-to- back, relatively cheap but very effective quickies which should stand as a healthy example to any aspiring film-maker. How many recent films, for instance, have ended with such a satisfying flourish as Miner pulled off in H20? Of course, if you’re Paul Thomas Anderson or Michael Mann, then nobody begrudges three hours in your cinematic company. Most directors, however, are sadly neither Paul Thomas Anderson nor Michael Mann, and if a 90-minute rule was imposed on the second and third raters then the world would, I am convinced, soon reap the benefits.
Anyway, Lake Placid. It’s a monster movie comedy-horror that doesn’t try particularly hard on the horror front – its monster is just a big crocodile stuck in a backwoods lake – but instead concentrates on the laughs. This isn’t a surprise given the fact that this is the first big-screen effort by David E Kelley of Ally McBeal fame, but what is a surprise is just how much of it comes off. The verbal sparring between Oliver Platt, as a tubby billionaire crocodile enthusiast, and Brendan Gleeson, as a tubby smalltown cop, works a treat, while the rest of the cast – nominally top-billed Fonda and Pullman, plus Betty White as a no-nonsense old dear who lives on the lake – chip in their twopenn’orth.
Lake Placid should be seen in a crowded cinema on a Saturday night, when all people really want is to be amused and entertained. For what it is, it couldn’t really be much better, and, in other hands, it could easily have been so much worse.
by Neil Young