“Anacondas” Movie Review

Now why in the world would someone watch the sequel to a bad movie? Well, you’ll have to ask all the Freddy vs. Jason fans I guess. I will tell you though, if you go in knowing what to expect then the whole experience is completely different than false hopes (a great lesson from M. Night’s “The Village”). So going into this expected disaster of a movie, I was hoping for only one thing: cool snake scenes. The question is “did they deliver my snake scenes”?

The premise is a whole lot better than the original, scientists have a possible medicine for retaining our youth and the main ingredient is found in a flower known as the Blood Orchid which happens to bloom only once every seven years, but the trick is actually finding the extremely rare flower. This time, the orchid has been spotted in the heart of the jungle. So after a group of young scientists get funding for the expedition they soon find themselves in a head-long dash to the jungle in the hopes of getting the orchid before it is no longer in bloom.

Naturally, the only way to navigate the jungle safely is on the river, right? Ahhhhhh, therein lies the problem! When they arrive at Borneo, the main town entrance to the jungle, noone is willing to take their boats into the river in the midst of “rainy season”, it’s far too dangerous. In comes our hardcore crappy-boat captain (Johnny Messner) doing his worst impression of Clint Eastwood that he could muster, and he is happy to navigate the treacherous rivers as long as the price is right. Very straight forward and clichĂ©, they set off on their grand adventure of finding the fountain of youth which promises fame and fortune. To make a summary even shorter, the boat encounters issues with floating which gives way to interpersonal problems and digestion problems (the latter more of a snake problem than human issue).

My favorite actor in the movie was Salli Richardson whose performance as the “venture-capitalist insuring the investment” was wooden at best. The first 45 minutes the acting overall is wonderfully bad and obvious, the dialogue is hokey (this never leaves unfortunately), and the emotion is limited. Morris Chestnut is uninspired, along with Messner and Nicholas Hope. The “best” performance is Eugene Byrd as the computer nerd and comedic relief, while still not worthy of a trip to the oscars (“a trip” = an invitation, *not* a nomination), he still makes the dull moments bearable in some small way. Not to forget Karl Yune’s minor part, who turns in the only believable piece consistently that never makes you question his authenticity, but his screen time is minimal.

The settings definitely put you in the jungle vibe, the more notable scenery coming towards the end of the movie where the heroes fall into a cavernous hole in the ground, the group gets split up and finally the feeling of Closter phobia kicks in, this is definitely one of the more notable scenes. The other scene which should give a good thrill is when Captain Jack’s (Messner) boat does a swan dive off a waterfall, a fun scene to watch indeed.

Overall the directing lacked imagination and uniqueness, and was a stab at some quick dollars from the dog days of August, believe me when I say this second point is duly noted and obvious. The Director, Dwight Little (Murder at 1600), has yet to make a noteworthy name for himself and this film will do little to exploit his directing skills. Perhaps his biggest fault is not working hard enough on dialogue and motivating his actors to be believable humans. Of course, my other big peeve was a very simple question: “Why in the world are scientists in a jungle????” It would figure that the expedition should be left up to people who are comfortable and competent in a life or death situation in the jungle, not fidgety scientists who are useless without their laptops. Maybe I blinked when this tidbit of exposition was given, but it still would not satisfy a logical answer.

Now that the official business is out of the way, the main question needs answering, did it deliver some fun snake action? Yes and no. The attempt by our director was to focus on the “plot” of grabbing the Blood Orchid, rather than giving us some good slithery scenes of snake love, errrr, actually he does give us a scene of anaconda “love”, but not quite enough action. As far as the action that is given, it is quite nicely done, he picks some good moments to deliver shock value, but far too many times he tries to stir up suspense using the camera view trick of “is it a snake? No! It’s a monkey! Gotcha!” Trust me, this technique is far from useful or suspenseful when in this director’s hands.

Final Thoughts
Well, I went for the snakes and I stayed for the snakes. There was a little more effort in compiling a story than in the first movie, but it did cost a little snake time and a lot of respect to some good actors. There were some good suspenseful scenes, a loveable monkey named Kong mixed in with fun anaconda action. The villain (other than the snake) shows up and is hardly believable, the whole motivation of greed is used to the fullest extent here, and gets quite irritating “But the money!!! Billionaires!! Arrrrggghh matey!!” Sorry, had to throw in the last bit to flesh it out. It’s a weak movie, but if you take some friends to laugh a bit and expect bad acting, you’ll have a blast. Unfortunately, waiting til DVD will not help the experience, that’s why I did the matinee. I give a dreadful 2 stars  to this hokey movie.

2 out of 5 stars