Written by: Todd Hurvitz & Howie Miller
Directed by: David Flores
Starring: John Schneider, Sarah Lafleur, and Sam McMurray
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
“Don't get eaten."
It’s funny how life has a habit of just getting away from you; back when Lake Placid was released and ended with the hint of future sequels, I’m pretty sure I was ready for a sequel right then and there. Instead, it took eight years to follow up on that (I guess it took that long for Fox to figure out that the DTV market was ideal for keeping would-be franchises on life support), and, by the time Lake Placid 2 aired as a SyFy Original in 2007, I don’t think it even registered. I eventually bought the DVD and, though the follow-ups continued to mount, the Lake Placid sequels never exactly became priory viewing—until now, fifteen years after first seeing Betty White feed those baby crocodiles at the end of the first movie.
Somewhat surprisingly, the sequel honors that premise. Apparently still set in the same rural Maine town as the first, this one picks up some years later, only now it’s Sadie Bickerman (Cloris Leachman looking to move in on White’s niche) living where her croc-loving sister once did. James Riley (John Schneider) is now the town sheriff who has to deal with a sudden rash of disappearances on Black Lake, at least when he’s not fussing at his mopey son (Chad Michael Collins). When a local (supposed) kook comes to the police station with evidence that his friend has been eaten (“now do you believe it’s a giant crocodile?” he says while pointing out a severed head), Riley heads out with a game officer (Sarah LaFleur) to confirm that it’s indeed another giant crocodile.
And it is, of course, because Lake Placid 2 is a pretty shameless retread of the first film, with everyone’s roles just sort of subtly changed around: Schneider is meant to be a little bit of Bill Pullman and Brenden Gleason, I guess, while LaFleur is supposed to replace Bridget Fonda. Oh, and naturally they’re jointed by another asshole wildlife enthusiast who just happens to swoop in (Sam McMurray); he’s just like Oliver Platt in the first one—if Platt also had an African manservant to order around. Not content to merely replicate the original Lothario act, Lake Placid 2 makes this guy to be a racist, white imperialist who—get this—basically thinks this “employee” owes him a life debt for saving him from the jaws of a lion or something. At least the movie goes out of its way to make a point of all this, but still, how did this happen in the year 2007?
Anyway, everyone’s a poor substitute for their predecessors, even if I do usually enjoy Schneider, who has lapsed into that Cool Dad phase in his career. Here, though, he seems a little too laid back, as he (and just about everyone else) acts as if he weren’t directed to be in sheer terror of the twenty-foot crocodile that’s supposed to be there (to everyone’s credit, the instances of a physical crocodile were rare and fleeting—more on that in a bit). At one point, the crocodile is mere feet away, but everyone is pretty leisurely about the whole thing, presumably because the entire production seems like it was a pretty lax affair all around—the film is over-lit and flat, the dialogue is a joke, and the production values are so generally low that I’m guessing this sequel’s budget didn’t equal the original’s catering bill.
Despite this, director David Flores does have the right idea in theory: if you’re helming a cheap cash-in, you might as well aim to make it a real schlocky piece of shit, and the script certainly provides ample opportunity by introducing sets of characters who are only meant to die (like a trio of ill-fated skinny dippers who appear for a total of three minutes). The only real diversion from the original is an added teens-in-peril subplot straight out of Jaws 2, as the sheriff’s son goes camping with some other local kids, most of whom are obnoxious to the point of exhaustion. Where the original featured a set of acerbic but good-natured characters, this one only bothers with unbearable clichés and caricatures that are just begging to be eaten.
The film wants to oblige like hell but can’t keep up with the demand with such poor effects. Despite the passage of eight years, Lake Placid 2 somehow boasts astronomically worse digital work than the original. So while quartet of crocodiles (because the first movie only had two) devours the cast early and often, it looks pitiful as hell. There are some infrequent bursts of nice aftermath gore here and there, but it’s hardly enough to salvage just how awful the creatures and their attacks look. I’ll never understand the contradictory urge to go bigger when the budget gets smaller because it rarely ever works out—instead, it only results in the film becoming a laughable cartoon.
Of course, maybe that’s the point, as the creature feature sub-genre has become infested with irony; for whatever reason, it’s been a frequent victim of the notion that intentionally bad movies deserve a pass because they’ve been primed for irony. The filmmakers behind this sequel don’t seem to understand that audiences weren’t laughing at the original film—they were laughing with it. Those instances where Lake Placid 2 invites audiences to laugh along (like when it almost becomes Eaten Alive or the fact that everyone’s find and dandy despite having watched about a dozen people get chowed down by crocodiles) are drowned out by the utter inanity surrounding them. It’s disappointing that a film that got this genre right could be followed up by one that gets so much wrong—not that it’s going to stop me from seeing if Lake Placid 3 rights the ship, of course. Rent it!
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