Where's J. Lo when you need her?
Back in 1997, when she was just Jenny from the block, Jennifer Lopez joined forces with Ice Cube
, Eric Stoltz
, Owen Wilson
and a gleefully scenery-chomping Jon Voight
to do battle with a nasty snake in the 1997 surprise hit Anaconda
While the picture was a certified B-movie horror-thriller in all its trashy glory, it still managed to strike a chord in a guilty-pleasure sort of way.
There's more where that came from in the sequel, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid
, and maybe it had to do with the resulting increased CGI budget (the original went the animatronic route), but the new edition is noticeably skimpy on familiar faces.
Unlike Voight, who memorably winked at the audience while he was being munched by the reptilian predator, not all of the performers gathered together here act like they're in on the joke.
But there are still sufficient cheap thrills and enough of the prevailing camp quality to scare up opening weekend numbers that should be well in line with the original's $16.6 million take, followed by a healthy video afterlife.
Where the first one followed the ill-fated Amazon trek taken by a documentary crew, the sequel is set in the jungles of Borneo, where a group of New York pharmacologists has converged in search of a rare orchid believed to hold the key to the production of a life-prolonging serum.
With little time to lose -- the flower only blooms for two weeks every seven years -- the team of scientists is hastily dispatched to the tropical location just in time for monsoon season and, as it so happens, mating season for a particular species of very large semiaquatic creature.
Even before the first attack, there's plenty of tension between the research team's egotistical lead scientist (Matthew Marsden
) and the dubious, cell-phone-clutching company rep (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), the logical financial guy (Morris Chestnut
), the neurotic computer geek (comic relief Eugene Byrd
) and the tough guy loner boat owner (Johnny Messner
doing his best Bogart) who agrees to take them all down the river for a hefty fee.
Naturally, part of the fun of these kinds of pictures is trying to figure out who'll be the first to become anaconda kibble based on their overall degree of annoyance (with venomous spiders and pesky leeches also doing their part), and in that regard the film doesn't disappoint.
Directed by Dwight Little (Free Willy 2
, Murder at 1600
) from a screenplay by John Clafin & Daniel Zelman
and Michael Miner
& Ed Neumeier (RoboCop
), the picture ultimately overcomes some clunky dialogue and clunkier line readings to deliver the goods in a diminished-expectations manner, particularly when the bloodbath gets going.
There's a notable improvement in the visual effects this time around, and cinematographer Stephen F. Windon mines plenty of atmosphere from the authentic Fiji locations, but technical prowess isn't necessarily a desired thing in the B-movie universe, where the cheese factor is still a highly regarded component.
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid
Screen Gems presents a Middle Fork production
A film by Dwight Little
Director: Dwight Little
Screenwriters: John Clafin & Daniel Zelman
, Michael Miner
& Ed Neumeier
Story: Hans Bauer
, Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr.
Producer: Verna Harrah
Executive producer: Jacobus Rose
Director of photography: Stephen F. Windon
Production designer: Bruce Perrin
Editors: Marcus D'Arcy, Marc Warner
Costume designer: Terry Ryan
Music: Nerida Tyson-Chew
Bill Johnson: Johnny Messner
Sam Rogers: Kadee Strickland
Dr. Jack Byron: Matthew Marsden
Cole Burris: Eugene Byrd
Gail Stern: Salli Richardson-Whitfield
Dr. Ben Douglas: Nicholas Gonzalez
Tran: Karl Yune
Gordon Mitchell: Morris Chestnut
MPAA rating: PG-13
Running time -- 93 minutes