Dr. Cale (Eric Stoltz) and Dr. Westridge (Jonathan Hyde) have charted a boat into the heart of the Amazon jungle in search of the elusive Shirishama people. Accompanying them is a small film crew (Ice Cube, Owen Wilson, and Kari Wuhrer) lead by director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez). When they encounter the shipwrecked Paul Serone (Jon Voight), they quickly discover that they didn’t so much rescue Serone as fall into his trap. Now the boat and all its passengers must fight to survive as Serone takes them hunting for a giant anaconda.
Anaconda (1997) is a really stupid movie. It’s a kind of stupidity that isn’t inherent to the premise of the film but lies squarely in the execution. The problems with Anaconda are in the script and in the casting. Anaconda went through a handful of drafts before reaching its shooting script at which point all pretension towards suspense has been discarded. The film moves between moments of attempted comic relief, jungle adventure, and creature feature with all the nuance of an elephant stampede. Of course the poor quality of the CGI snake doesn’t help matters much either.
Everyone of the performers cast in Anaconda brings their best to the lackluster material, it’s just that most of them just aren’t right for their part. Voight as a Paraguyan poacher is one of the worst cases of miscasting an actor in any movie. Likewise Owen Wilson is simply misused in his throw away part as snake bait. Jonathan Hyde does his usual thing as the unlikeable Englishman while his counter part, Eric Stoltz, spends the bulk of the film poisoned and asleep in his cabin. It’s really Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube who carry Anaconda. Unfortunately their chemistry isn’t utilized until the final confrontation with the cartoon-like CGI/rubber puppet snake.
Anaconda is another entry in a slew of creature features that came to prominence in the wake of Jurassic Park (1993). For the most part all of these films are pretty far fetched with some of the most bizarre plot twists and genre mash-ups in cinema history. Anaconda is not as cohesive as Deep Blue Sea (1999), or as inventive as Deep Rising (1998), nor is it as character driven as Congo (1995). Of the films made in this ilk at this time Anaconda is on the lowest rung.
What’s curious about these would-be blockbusters, and Anaconda in particular, is that they are all made with the production values and general sophistication of a New World Pictures production. What these films offer viewers are big name stars in B-movie attractions. When Jurassic Park came out it revolutionized the special effects industry yet the films that followed in direct response to Jurassic Park don’t even attempt that same kind of visual wonders. The snake in Anaconda either looks like something from King Kong (1976) or a quick computer effect in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer television show.
Being a bad movie doesn’t mean that Anaconda isn’t a fun movie. As a diversion Anaconda is goofy enough to solicit a chuckle here or an eye roll there as one indulges one’s self. It doesn’t quite rise to the status of cult classic since it has neither a redeeming facet nor does it inspire the viewer to any degree like the films of Ed Wood. Anaconda is a film for snake aficionados, Jennifer Lopez completists, and possibly stoners. And there is nothing wrong with that.