I've always had a real soft spot for "killer croc" flicks. (OK, fine: Killer Crocs and Angry Alligators!) So while very few of these movies are actually any good, if I hear about a new cheapie that features more than two or three characters getting eaten by a ravenous animal ... I'm down. Seems I've had a lot to be (slightly) excited about over the past several months, because in addition to the home-video sequel Lake Placid 2, I've also been treated to the reptilian rampages of Primeval and Black Water ... with Greg McLean's Rogue and Stewart Raffill's Croc just around the corner. The original Lake Placid, you'll no doubt remember, was a very jokey sorta-horror flick in which folks like Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, and Bridget Fonda get chased around by a crocodile who takes up residence in a lake.
So there. You're all caught up and can now sit down to watch Lake Placid 2 without worrying that you've missed something important. Like most direct-to-video sequels, this flick has practically nothing to do with its predecessor; it's just easier to sell Lake Placid 2 to a video-store customer than it is to sell, say, Killer Croc. Plus it's important to note that Lake Placid 2 had its debut on the Sci-Fi Channel. Unfortunately, and this is coming from a guy who found a few things worth enjoying in freakin' Crocodile 2: Death Roll for cryin' out loud, Lake Placid 2 is every bit the flat, generic, and entirely colorless knock-off we've come to expect from afterthought sequels. It's a lethargic would-be remake of the first Lake Placid, to be completely honest, but without the screenwriting of David Kelley (and without the relative star power of Pullman, Platt, and Fonda), this is a big, gaping yawn of a retread.
Here's your plot: A bunch of stupidly large crocodiles have invaded a small lake in Maine. Some very boring characters get eaten -- mostly offscreen -- and then the real fireworks begin: The sheriff, along with a wildlife officer (also his ex) and a pompous, wealthy hunter, wander through the woods, stopping occasionally to bulge their eyeballs at one of the fakest-looking crocs you'll ever see. (And if CGI is so great, how does the 1980 Alligator look so much better than this 2007 Crocodile? I don't get it.) Meanwhile, in another generic subplot stolen casually from Jaws 2, the sheriff's son and a bunch of bland teens get attacked by crocodiles in really boring fashion.
It's pretty tough to make "alligators eating people" a boring thing to watch, but director David Flores (Python 2) displays all the creativity of a blind chimp. He'll occasionally sweeeep his camera across the proceedings, just like a little kid will go "ta-da!" after a silly little magic trick -- but the screenplay (which comes from a pair of reality-TV writers) is a merciless avalanche of bland exchanges, limp quips, and stunningly banal banter. Follow the basic "killer croc" template if you must, fellas, but jeez, would it kill you to try something even remotely different? The always-likable John Schneider, forever trapped between Smallville schmaltz and B-grade cheese, does the best he can with the nice-guy hero schtick, but there's just nothing to work with here. As the swaggering hunter with a dodgy accent, veteran character actor Sam McMurray is pretty annoying (which stinks because he's usually great). The women and the youths are uniformly forgettable, except for the frankly depressing performance by Cloris Leachman as a nasty old woman who likes to breed savage crocodiles for no good reason. (Shake it off, Cloris. You'll always be Frau Blucher to me.)
One might have hoped for something a little more entertaining, given that a few recent video sequels were actually pretty decent, but Lake Placid 2 is a pretty awful affair from stem to stern. It's not even egregiously awful enough to poke a lot of fun at. It's just sort of bland, stale, and ... meh. And if you already saw the flick on the Sci-Fi Channel and you're just dying to see what's in the "unrated" cut, trust me when I say it's not worth the effort. You'll get a few outrageously silly scenes of pointless female nudity (nothing you can't find online, trust me) and a few really shoddy moments of CGI bloodletting.
But hey, if you're a carnage completist and you simply MUST own every croc flick ever made, you'll be pleased to know that Fox threw a few extra goodies onto the DVD. The film is presented in a basic widescreen format, with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. There's a 4-minute featurette called "Sex, Guns, and Croc-n-Roll" (groan), which is just a bunch of on-set footage. "Surviving a Crocodile Attack" is another 4-minute piece in which actual survival tips are set against some of the stupider scenes from the movie. "Lake Placid 2: The Gnawed Up Version" runs about nine minutes as it speeds through the entire film, stopping only so we can watch the chompy bits. Damn, I really wish I'd checked that out before watching the whole movie.