It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"What an animal does in the water is his own business--unless he does it to man." So says Sheriff Keough, one of the crocbusters of "Lake Placid." I couldn't disagree with him more. The 30-foot crocodile in this movie stays in the water, contentedly munching on bears and cows, until scuba-diving beaver taggers invade his domain. It's their own fault that the beast gets mad and eats a scientist and half a game warden.
The croc inhabits Black Lake, in Maine. (There is no Lake Placid in the movie, which may be its most intriguing mystery.) It is, we learn, an Asian crocodile. "How did he swim across the sea?" a lawman asks, not unreasonably. "They conceal information like that in books," one of the movie's croc lovers answers sarcastically. I dunno; I thought it was a pretty good question.
As the movie opens, two game wardens are tagging beavers, to study their movements. Suddenly they're attacked by an underwater camera, which lunges at them in an unconvincing imitation of an offscreen threat. It becomes clear that Black Lake harbors more than beavers, although for my money the scenes involving beavers were the scariest in the movie. Can you imagine being underwater, inside a beaver dam, with angry inhabitants the size of footstools whose teeth can chomp through logs? When it becomes clear that Black Lake harbors a gigantic beast, an oddly assorted crew assembles to search for it. There's fish warden Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), museum paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda), Sheriff Keough (Brendan Gleeson) and millionaire croc lover Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt), a mythology professor who believes "crocodiles are divine conduits." Oh, and there's Mrs. Bickerman (Betty White), who lives in a cute little farm cottage on the shores of the lake and lost her husband a few years ago.
That's her story, anyway.