Sinking sensation

Movie: Lake Placid

Our Rating: 1.00

The simply insipid "Lake Placid" plays out more like a college film project that finally got produced due to the credentials of the actors (Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Betty White) and screenwriter (TV wunderkind David Kelly, who's also penning "Mystery, Alaska," opening in October). What's supposed to be a campy and suspenseful horror/comedy sinks to all-time movie lows.

Lurking in an isolated lake is a ferocious big-toothed creature that, in the film's opening, chops the lower half of a fish and game warden's body clean off. Enter game warden Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), Sheriff Hank Keogh (Brendan Gleeson) and Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda), a paleontologist from New York's Museum of Natural History who is shipped to the scene after a suspicious tooth is discovered in the victim's body that suggests it came from some sort of aberration of nature. Though uninvited to the investigation, world-famous croc hunter Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) arrives just in time for the mysterious 30-foot crocodile to make its presence known.

The only residents within 25 miles of the lake are an elderly couple, so the intrepid hunters head to their humble cabin to alert them. What they find is a stereotypically dotty old lady who spews profanities (Betty White, in an embarrassing role) and long ago buried her husband in the backyard. Turns out the giant crocodile is her pet, the relationship sustained by the blindfolded live cow she feeds it every day.

Needless to say, "Lake Placid" is loaded with absurdities as the scaly reptile is pursued on a search-and-destroy mission.

Steve Miner, the schlock director responsible for several "Friday the 13th" entries and last summer's abysmal Halloween H20, provides little in the way of suspense or coherence. The film's poorly executed special effects are laughable, with the jerky motions of the crocodile appearing more like the latter-day Godzilla.

On a positive note, the film follows its cookie-cutter formula closely, finishing in reasonable running length. But still it's 95 minutes and millions of dollars wasted. The eccentric old lady of Lake Placid and her friendship with a monster crocodile was an idea that would have been better left undisturbed.