Lake Placid (1999)

“Lake Placid” is one of those movies that you watch passively, and it’s over before you even know it. At 82 minutes, it doesn’t spend too much time establishing its characters, preferring instead to focus on dynamics and casting, and in that way it succeeds immensely: Its trio of leading performers (Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman and Oliver Platt) are charismatic and share believable chemistry, all of which goes a long way towards selling the deliriously over-the-top plot. The special effects are actually pretty good for a mid-budget ’90s studio movie, although the movie succeeds better when it focuses on practical effects for its giant killer crocodile: In particular, a water encounter between Platt and the croc is made all the more suspenseful by director Steve Miner’s deliberate approach, showing the creature as much as necessary to heighten the tension but focusing primarily on Platt’s growing panic. There’s a plum supporting role for national treasure Betty White, who seems to be working out the ‘foul-mouthed grandma’ routine that’s led to her 21st century resurgence here, and she walks away with every scene she’s in. In the end it’s a fun, undemanding and fast-paced watch that has its moments and is generally enjoyable, and even though it doesn’t quite reach the horror-comedy highs of, say, “Slither” or “Eight Legged Freaks,” it’s still a pretty good time.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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