Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on the internet machine
My mother hates snakes. My wife and I used to have a pet ball python named Howard that my wife bought with birthday money she got from my mother. It was a sort of private joke. This is apropos of nothing, except for the fact that I watched Anaconda, which is about a giant snake and the people who hunt it in the Amazon. It wants to be Jaws. It’s not even Lake Placid or Deep Blue Sea.
We’re going to start by seeing a poacher (Danny Trejo!) on the Amazon. He’s attacked by something unseen, but based on the name of the movie, we know what it is. Cornered, he shoots himself in the head rather than let it kill or eat him. We’re then immediately introduced to our main cast. What we have is a film crew planning on making a documentary about a hidden Amazonian tribe. The crew consists of boat captain Mateo (Vincent Castellanos), director Terri (Jennifer Lopez), her cameraman Danny (Ice Cube), anthropologist and love interest Steven (Eric Stoltz), production manager Denise (Kari Wuhrer), her boyfriend and sound guy Gary (Owen Wilson), and pompous British narrator Warren (Jonathan Hyde). They soon encounter a disabled boat and a desperate man named Paul Serone (Jon Voight), so naturally they rescue him.
Serone claims to be Paraguayan, although his accent is more Speedy Gonzalez than anything else. He also claims to be a snake hunter. And naturally, what is going to happen is we’re going to be hunting anacondas. But not just any anacondas. We’re going to be hunting a snake that is 30-40 feet long. And, naturally, it’s going to start picking off the crew. It’s going to sort of have help in the sense that soon after he is on board the ship, Serone starts to take over. He causes a series of apparent accidents (including the death of Mateo) so that he can be in charge. He wants not to kill the snake in question, but to capture it alive. What happens is very much what you expect will happen.
Anaconda, despite its surprising A-list cast, is a very dumb movie, indeed. The characters are dumb and almost randomly go from annoying assholes to likeable people almost at the whim of the director (or the necessity of the plot). Moment by moment, it’s hard to tell who we should care about. The movie also sidelines Eric Stoltz pretty quickly, not killing him off but making him effectively a corpse in most important respects. He’s just kind of…there…and not really doing anything, like they forgot to write him dialogue and needed him to go to sleep for half of the short running time.
It's also a movie with ridiculous effects. The snake is, frankly, goofy, not the least of that being the fact that it literally has someone who “voiced” it for the film. The snake is played by Frank Welker. But it’s otherwise a truly cheesy special effect. And the movie seems so proud of the damned thing. At one point, we actually get a shot from inside the snake’s throat as it swallows someone.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that pretty much all of the characters in this movie are dumb as well. Ice Cube manages to be the smartest guy on the screen, although that’s only because our anthro professor is sidelined early on. Everyone else makes a lot of really dumb decisions a lot of the time for plot reasons, which are the worst reasons of all.
Honestly, the saving grace of Anaconda is that it clocks in at under 90 minutes including the credits, so the pain doesn’t last for very long. And you know that no matter who gets chomped on that as the ultimate villain, Jon Voight is going to get munched. Since Jon Voight has, in recent years, completely lost his fucking mind, it’s cathartic as all hell to watch him get wrapped by a really fake-looking snake and squeezed until his face distorts.
Evidently, though, this thing has enough of a following to spawn several sequels. I can only hope that I can go the rest of my life without having to watch them.
Why to watch Anaconda: Jon Voight is a shithead and you get to see him die.
Why not to watch: It’s powerfully dumb.