There’s a special look that actors get — avid yet resigned — when the movie they’re starring in is so bad it practically billboards their stalled careers. Bill Pullman and Bridget Fonda wear this expression throughout Lake Placid. It’s a look that says, ”We know we’re just meat.” A huge, pesky crocodile has journeyed from Asia to a lake nestled in the woodsy hills of Maine. In the opening minutes, we’re treated to a gross-out appetizer, as the croc bites a wet-suited game officer in two and his wriggling torso gets pulled out of the water. Look, Ma, no legs!
After that, the isolated setting lends ”Lake Placid” a peculiar lack of urgency, even on its own cheesy, cardboard, can-we-still-pick-the-bones-of-”Jaws” terms. I mean, if the crocodile is just sitting there, with no one to bother but the crazy lady (Betty White, cussing like a longshoreman) who feeds it the occasional cow, there’s a decent case to be made for just … letting it be. ”Lake Placid” was written by ”Ally McBeal” creator David E. Kelley (is this how he moonlights?), and its director, Steve Miner (”Halloween: H20”), seems to have forgotten what little he ever knew about crafting mechanical jolts. Instead of rooting for Pullman and Fonda, we end up praying that the crocodile is hungry enough to put them out of their misery.