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Review: Whole Lot of Snakin' Going on in 'Anaconda'!


From Reviewer Carol Buckland

(CNN) -- "Anaconda" has slithered to the top of the box office heap for two weeks in a row, and it's easy to understand why. It's been quite awhile since I've had such a good time at what is, basically, a bad movie.

Blithely borrowing from "Jaws," "Alien," "Moby Dick" and countless schlocky horror movies, the story line picks up with a hapless film crew heading up the Amazon River to make a documentary about a legendary bunch of Indians.

En route, the crew rescues a priest-turned-snake stalker named Paul Sarone. Paul repays the favor by dragging them into his obsessive hunt for anacondas.

Paul Sarone is played -- overplayed, really -- by Jon Voight. Affecting a goofy accent (pseudo-Paraguayan, maybe?) that needs to be heard to be believed, he turns in a hilariously over-the-top performance. This guy doesn't just chew on the scenery, he gobbles it whole.

The other members of the cast are no great shakes performance-wise, but that's OK. They are a cinematically and culturally diverse group, as casts in this type of action-adventure flick tend to be.

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There's the cynical boat captain (Vincent Castellanos); the documentary's director (Jennifer Lopez); her anthropologist-lover (Eric Stoltz, looking mighty pale); an L.A. homeboy-turned-camera dude (Ice Cube); the documentary's oh-so-intellectual narrator (Jonathan Hyde); a dim-bulb sound tech (Owen Wilson) and his dumb bunny production manager girlfriend (Kari Wuhrer). While Wuhrer is no Jamie Lee Curtis when it comes to screaming, she does contribute some effective shrieking in several scenes.

Luis Llosa's direction isn't subtle, but he deftly times the story's key set-up scenes and most of the scary stuff. Production values are basic Grade B, although Bill Butler's shrewd camerawork deserves a special nod. Randy Edelman apparently listened to John William's "Jaws" music a lot before composing his manipulate-the-audience score.

The monster looks like a maniacal garden hose in a couple of sequences. Still, it delivers the necessary thrills and chills.

While you don't have to lower your standards lower than a snake's belly to enjoy "Anaconda," it couldn't hurt. Cheesy movie fans, enjoy!

The movie runs a very brisk 90 minutes. It is rated PG-13. In addition to the snake-on-a-rampage scenes, there's a yucky tracheotomy, plus profane language.


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