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Starring Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, and Eric Stoltz
Screenplay by Hans Bauer, Jim Cash, and Jack Epps, Jr.
Animatronic FX by: Walt Conti
Visual FX by John Nelson
Directed by Luis Llosa

IN SHORT: Almost bad enough to be good

Cranky walked out of the sneak preview of Anaconda with the crunch crunch of popcorn accompanying every footstep. Sometime soon, dear reader, if you are so inclined, you will be sitting in a theater with the sound cranked up and the extra large tub of popcorn in your lap. Your hand will be buried in the golden topping goo that passes for butter. The popped kernels will be heading for your maw when the title snake appears. The popcorn will go flying and you, too, will hear it go crunch crunch under your feet when you leave the theater.

Anaconda is not an original idea -- it's a little bit Jaws, a little bit Alien, and a little bit Moby Dick. As far as well developed stories go, let's be honest here. The entire point of movies like Anaconda is to get you from civilization to where the monster is. Once achieved, the point is to scare the bejeezus out of you. You know it's got the job nailed when nervous laughter rises to the rafters between onscreen attacks of what the film calls the "most perfect killing machine," the South American anaconda snake.

Any critic that saw this thing in a private room would have been bored silly. Which is one of the reasons I do my best to see flicks with real people.

The story details the efforts of a documentary film crew led by Dr. Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz) and director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez); the group seeks to find and film the legendary Shirishama Indians of the Amazon. In the midst of a torrential rainstorm on the river, they rescue Paul Sarone (Jon Voight), whose boat has been stranded. Sarone will waylay the filmmakers and get us to that bejeezus part I just wrote about.

With a terrible accent laid thick on top of the crazy gleam in his eyes, with every eyebrow wiggle, you can tell that Jon Voight is having the time of his life playing Sarone, to whom the capture of the 40-foot-long, mythological-monster-sized snake is worth big bucks. Voight is this movie's equivalent of Ahab. The capture of a live anaconda is his equivalent of the white whale. Voight's performance steals the picture.

In between attacks, you can have a good time guessing which hapless voyager will get chomped next. The ferocity of the snake attacks is where the Alien analogy comes in. Director Luis Llosa's choice to shoot the stalking sequences from the snake's point of view is drawn from Jaws, and it all works well. The animatronic snake looks about as real as I could imagine. The CGI snake moves on and off screen so quickly, you don't have time to dwell on whether or not it looks real.

Prepare to giggle, nervously.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Anaconda, he would have paid . . .


Anaconda is one of those flicks that is almost, repeat almost, so bad it's good. If you can't see it with a crowd, don't see it. But I saw it with a crowd, and it scared the bejeezus out of me.

Click to buy films starring Jon Voight
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