Whether the plan was originally to create a serious monster movie or not what "Lake Placid" ends up is a firmly tongue in cheek B-movie, a monster movie of mirth. It is so tongue in cheek that it revels in bad characters, bad comedy, bad effects, a bad storyline and bad just about everything else but heck it's so entertaining. I could go on because there isn't an ounce of intelligence to "Lake Placid"; the horror is drawn from other movies as are some of the situations but it really doesn't matter because this is a comedy horror with the emphasis on the comedy. As such if you watch "Lake Placid" to be scared you are going to be disappointed because despite a 30ft crocodile I don't remember a single fright just plenty of laughs.
When Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) pulls a tooth out of the half of the body he pulls out of the water a whole group of experts from palaeontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda - It Could Happen to You) to crocodile expert Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt - A Time to Kill) come together by Black Lake, Maine to search for what sort of monster could have done this. It doesn't take them long to discover as they encounter a giant crocodile, a thirty footer which has no business being in a lake in Maine.
So "Lake Placid" feels like someone's creation having watched many monster movies over the decades, I say that because whilst we have this story which sees a giant crocodile living in a lake in Maine there are elements which are familiar to those who enjoy monster movies. In fact "Lake Placid" feels at times if we have "Jaws" but with a crocodile instead. As such what happens is for the most unoriginal as a team come in to investigate a mysterious death and rather than doing the sensible thing continually put themselves at risk when they know they are up against a giant predator.
But then "Lake Placid" never feels like a movie which has tried to come up with an original story but a movie which wants to have a laugh with the monster movie genre. The stupidity of the various characters who collect by the lake as they do the wrong thing, and there individual quirks and relationships are just as stupid, but intentionally so. It makes you smile that you know Sheriff Hank Keough will end up in one of Hector's traps not once but a few times and it is such an obvious gag but it still works. You know that Hector will end up coming face to face with Croczilla but you want it to happen and likewise the obligatory romantic subplot between Kelly and Jack is obvious but "Lake Placid" would be wrong with out it.
But then there is more to "Lake Placid" than just poking fun at the stupidity of monster movies and we have Mrs. Delores Bickerman a little old lady who lives by the lake. Brilliant casting makes the humour of Mrs. Bickerman work because here we have the ever so nice Betty White, a "Golden Girl" no less with one heck of a comical foul mouth on her. It is simply brilliant and whilst I would not normally find foul mouthed OAPs comical Betty White is so brilliant, so straight faced when she lets rip that you can't but help laugh and enjoy every moment she is on screen.
If there is one criticism I have of "Lake Placid" is that whilst the emphasis is firmly on the humour rather than the horror a few decent frights wouldn't have gone a miss. There was not one single moment of horror which made me jump, plenty which made me laugh from decapitated torsos to near misses, but that element of fear was missing.
What this all boils down to is that "Lake Placid" is an entertaining stab at making a tongue in cheek monster movie with the emphasis firmly on being funny rather than frightening. It's by no means the best example of this sort of movie and a few more frights wouldn't go a miss but with a wonderful performance from Betty White it is well worth a watch, just be prepared for plenty of stupidity.