There are a lot of movies I could be talking about to finish up the Reviewing Movies like it’s 1999 column for July. Some of the biggest hits of that year were released in that time frame including the “peak popularity” Adam Sandler starring vehicle Big Daddy; the “Porky’s for the 90s” sex comedy American
There are a lot of movies I could be talking about to finish up the Reviewing Movies like it’s 1999 column for July. Some of the biggest hits of that year were released in that time frame including the “peak popularity” Adam Sandler starring vehicle Big Daddy; the “Porky’s for the 90s” sex comedy American Pie; and Runaway Bride which was Julia Roberts‘ second big hit of the year following Notting Hill (which I discussed in May). But perhaps I’m a big ‘ol weirdo because instead I was drawn to a couple monster movies that were released within a couple weeks of each other, Lake Placid (premiered July 16, 1999), and Deep Blue Sea (released July 28th). That’s right, it’s a July ’99 creature-feature, double feature! So I busted out the projector and screened them in my backyard during a hot summer night with some adult beverages just as God intended.
Lake Placid is about a giant killer croc terrorizing a small town/lake community that’s pretty wacky- and not that great- but has a certain amount of charm all the same. Now if I told you the film was written by David E. Kelly (the creator of stuff like Ally McBeal) and helmed by Steve Miner (director of Friday the 13th’s parts 2, 3) you might have had a hard time picturing those two worlds mashing together, but honestly, that’s pretty much what you get with this movie. It has the plot framework of a 50s “monster on a rampage” drive-in programmer (with some graphic guts and decapitations by way of 70s/ 80s grindhouse flick). Between sporadic reptilian attacks, the movie is mostly spent hanging out with some quirky characters bantering like they’re in a 90s sitcom. And to top it off, they’re portrayed by some seriously overqualified actors; e.g. Bridget Fonda, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Platt, and Bill Pullman. Even friggin’ Betty White pops up for a few scenes and all but steals the movie by doing stuff like feeding her cows to the thirty foot crocodile and calling the local authorities “cocksuckers” (…and other such vulgarities… good times).
So yeah, not all of it works but there are enough highlights to keep you going. I mean, cast alone should have gotten it to minor classic status… but the raw ingredients don’t bake up to a great flick. I suppose the movie does what it needs to do for the most part, but it does seems to be missing a certain “something” to really push the guilty pleasure needle. Certainly some more croc action would have helped. Also the movie seems to be setting up a sequel by capturing and shipping the creature from the small town to the big city “for testing”. So if they tagged some extra business onto the film’s scant 80ish minute run time and had a grand finale “upping the ante” rampage through some urban metropolis (basically mirror King Kong by going from Skull Island to New York) it would have made for a more memorable movie I think.
Next up was Deep Blue Sea, which holds the distinction of being one of the best shark movies ever made. But if we’re being honest that’s a distinction without much competition because in that sub genre you pretty much just have Deep Blue Sea, maybe an Open Water or 47 Meters Down, and, of course, Jaws sitting on top of the heap. Then everything else is basically a Jaws rip-off. But Deep Blue Sea managed to have its own influence on the creature feature genre of the aughts with its goofy sci-fi premise and tongue-in-cheek sensibility. In other words, you can draw a direct line from the “genetically engineered smart sharks” of Deep Blue Sea to the glut of Syfy Channel originals like Sharknado.
Of course, the films’ largest contribution to pop culture is Samuel L. Jackson‘s “rally the troops” monologue that is cut short when he’s chomped whole by one of the sharks. And that’s basically peak level “b-movie bliss” we get because the rest of the movie plays out like a 70s disaster flick where the dwindling survivors try to reach the surface of the sinking underwater facility. It’s like Poseidon Adventure– but you know- with a few sharks thrown in.
But the movie ends in joyous fashion with co-star LL Cool J‘s tie-in end credit rap song “Deepest Bluest (Shark’s Fin)” where he literally raps about being a shark and eating people. Now when I was talking about Wild Wild West (reviewed in June) I bemoaned that the Will Smith track marked the end of the 80s/ 90s trend of having an “end credit rap song that explains the plot of the movie you just saw”. I theorized that it was the backlash of that bomb that caused the “end credit rap song” to fall out of favor. But clearly it was when the world heard Mr. Cool James’ lyrics “Deepest, bluest, my hat is like a shark’s fin!” that we all collectively threw up our hands and packed it in- knowing that true artistic perfection was achieved and any future efforts within the “end credit rap song” genre would pale in comparison.
So anyway, both flicks are cheesy “50s monster movies filtered through a late 90s lens”- which of course makes them hokey but plenty entertaining in the right frame of mind (or inebriation). And in a way these films represent one of the last times Hollywood would make these sort of unapologetic B- movies produced with decent budgets and featuring “slumming for a paycheck” movie stars. Over the years these types of movies would continually be relegated to direct-to-cable or VOD status and produced at bargain basement prices by the likes of The Asylum and featuring C list name actors. But there was a period- and it seems like it was the late 90s- when this stuff was being made at something of a higher artistic level.
That’s it for July ’99… next time I’m going to talk about one of the biggest hits of that year- Sixth Sense.