out of Five
Running time: 97
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the jungle…Anacondas is an enjoyably trashy sequel, though it’s a little too attached to its cast for its own good.
Giant Snake thriller Anaconda was a surprising box-office hit back in 1997 – it seems odd now to think that it starred the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stoltz, Ice Cube and Owen Wilson. (Okay, maybe not Stoltz and Cube).
Giant CGI Snakes On Rampage
Unsurprisingly, J-Lo isn’t back for the sequel, although they have a cut-price Lopez-alike in the shapely form of Salli Richardson-Whitfield. (Note to Salli: you might want to consider a stage name). And if you were thinking that Anaconda didn’t need a sequel, then, boy, were you wrong. Because what could be scarier than a Giant CGI Snake? LOADS of Giant CGI Snakes, that’s what.
The plot is laughably ridiculous, in classic ‘B’ movie fashion. A bunch of scientist-types think they’ve stumbled on a formula that might hold the key to a youth-preserving serum. (“This could be bigger than Viagra”, says one of them, with dollar signs in his eyes).
Unfortunately, the key ingredient is only found in an extremely rare red orchid (the “blood orchid”), which, wouldn’t you know it, only blooms in deepest, darkest Borneo for a couple of weeks a year. So a couple of the more gung-ho scientist types (including ex-Coronation Street star Matthew Marsden and Tamzin Outhwaite lookalike KaDee Strickland) set off up the river, accompanied by top-billed boat captain Johnny Messner, who seems to be going for a World’s Graveliest Voice award.
Unsurprisingly, the trip hits a bit of a snag when they suddenly realise there are Bloody Great CGI Snakes everywhere. But there’s worse to come. Oh yes. Because it’s mating season and the snakes are horny as all hell. As one character memorably puts it, “You mean there’s a snake orgy out in that jungle?” So it doesn’t take a screenwriting genius to work out where the orchids are…
Faces Kept Admirably Straight
To be fair, the actors keep admirably straight faces throughout, except
Marsden, who takes the role of pantomime villain a little too far. The fun of having a no-name cast in a film like this lies in predicting the snakes’ menu order, although the film makes the classic 12A certificate error of having entirely too many people left alive at the end.
The snake effects are actually pretty good; CGI snake-producing skillz have obviously come a long way since 1997. There are also some nice touches, like a brief ‘Monkey cam’ adventure as the ship’s mascot (“Kong”) gets separated from the boat and chased by a snake. In addition, the film throws in several in-jokes and references (a passing mention of the first film’s documentary crew; a character humming the Jaws theme before getting eaten), so it’s clear that at least some of the humour is intentional.
If there’s a problem, it’s only that the film lacks a memorable set-piece to rival a half-digested Jon Voight hacking his way out of the snake in the first film. The ‘Mating Ball’ of Giant Snakes comes close, but is sadly under-used.
In short, this is the sort of film that will have you laughing and cheering rather than screaming as its characters get gradually eaten. As such, it’s an enjoyably trashy Friday night thriller that’s probably best enjoyed after a beer or two.