When it comes to reviewing a Part 4, I often like to start out with a quick and hopefully helpful little "franchise history lesson," just to bring everyone up to speed -- but is that really necessary at this point? Probably not. What was once a strange but amusing little matinee movie from a well-known TV producer has (somehow, slowly) turned into a cable TV sequel franchise that exists for nothing more than to fill a random Saturday night slot with a lot of silliness and a bunch of crocodile madness. Congrats to the goofily-named Lake Placid 4: it not only qualifies under those criteria, it's also the most stupidly entertaining entry in this non-franchise since the first one... which wasn't all that great but hey, people who love movies about man-eating crocodiles* can't afford to be all that discerning.
But for the sake of tradition: Lake Placid (1999), written by David E. Kelley and directed by a guy who helmed two separate Friday the 13th sequels, becomes a quiet hit on cable and home video, which eventually led to Lake Placid 2 (2007), Lake Placid 3 (2010), and now, awesomely enough, Lake Placid: The Final Chapter... as if "the final chapter" is going to entice any viewers who weren't already interested. I digress.
Picking up directly (and very stupidly) after the end of Part 3, Part 4 continues being all sorts of predictable and stupid at the same time: an angry hunter (the amusing Yancy Butler) is after a giant crocodile. The giant crocodile, for its part, is after a bunch of nubile swim team dimbulbs, and the filmmakers (particularly the screenwriter) are after anything they can find to fill at least an hour before unleashing holy hell in crocodile form. For all its stock characters and frankly tiresome genre trappings, Lake Placid 4 actually does display a half-decent sense of humor and a noticeable splash of energy once the plot winds down and we finally get to focus on random chomping.
Credit is perhaps due to series newcomer Don Michael Paul (director of Half Past Dead, weirdly enough) for bringing a small semblance of creativity to a stiffly formulaic screenplay, but writer David Reed (returning from Part 3) displays some enthusiasm while biting into the most conventional of horror flick stereotypes. By the time Robert Englund shows up to play a faint shadow of the character made famous by Robert Shaw in Jaws, you'll either be slightly revved up for some crocodile carnage -- or you'll flip the channel to something slightly less goofy. Either way, I've seen a lot worse "crocs run wild" movies than Lake Placid 4.
(* And alligators.)