Anacondas, subtitled The Hunt For The Blood Orchid, is a cataclysmic miscalculation. One may have drawn that conclusion from the equally horrid trailers that have been surfacing, but no, I chose to give it a solid chance because I didn’t find its predecessor, 1997’s Anaconda, to be as bad as the reputation it has. I should have left it alone.
Anacondas spends a very brief amount of time cluing us in on the premise, which in itself is a howler. Deep in the forests of Borneo lies the Blood Orchid, which scientific research has just shown to lengthen lives. For a pharmaceutical company, this would be a gold mine. So the company dispatches the usual cast of characters (the determined Brit, the wisecracking minority, a few bossy women, and a tossed in chiseled hero once they get there) on an expedition to retrieve the Orchid for testing on humans.
Upon arriving in Borneo, the group realizes that they don’t have a boat. Summoned to help is Bill Johnson (Messner), who, to me, looks very out of place in Borneo. All that aside, he agrees to take the group through treacherous waters to find the flower, but for a price.
Unfortunately for them, the snakes have already found the flower and are experiencing its powers. Furthermore, it’s snake mating season and they’re horny as ever! It doesn’t take long for the snakes to start making their appearance in the form of shadows and brief glimpses. It would stay this way, mostly, for the remainder of the film.
The diabolical error that the film makes is that it actually wants us to care about this block-headed story. That can only explain the total lack of snakes, which is another crucial misfire. In fact, we don’t even get a decent look at a snake until well after the halfway mark, and finally again at the anti-climactic conclusion. Come to think of it, we see the emotional pet monkey that is the exclamation point to every scene more than the snakes. This is indeed the first film I have ever seen where a monkey is supposed to show us how we’re supposed to feel about the situation unraveling on screen.
So what were director Dwight Little and his screenwriters thinking? Honestly, I haven’t a clue, and I refuse to waste more brainpower trying to figure it out. The original film at least knew it was campy (Jon Voight, anyone?), and on that level it was enjoyable. Plus, we got to see the snake, and often.
The acting is equally awful. Johnny Messner is stone cold as Bill, our hero. He’s talking so deep that his lips are barely moving. KaDee Strickland has officially dethroned Nicolas Cage in Con Air as the worst southern accent ever captured on film, except her’s mysteriously disappears at the beginning of the second act. Astute viewers may recognize Morris Chestnut, arguably the only “big” name in the entire film. He is hung out to dry.
I will give the film minor props on its scenery and production values. The snakes don’t even look all that bad when we actually get to see them, which is far too little. Dwight Little’s direction is competent with the exception of a very overly-dark lit scenes, but the script is a nightmare from minute one.
So who is this movie for? Based on my experience at the theater, kids who just turned thirteen yesterday. There are a few jolts, but that’s it. So to wrap things up, next to no snakes, a ludicrous story that we are supposed to care about, lame characters, and an anti-climactic ending. I’d rather go to the zoo.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 97 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for action violence, scary images and some language.
Theatrical Release: August 27, 2004
Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Written by: John Claflin & Daniel Zelman & Michael Miner & Edward Neumeier. Based upon the story and 1997 screenplay by Hans Bauer & Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr.
Cast: Johnny Messner, KaDee Strickland, Matthew Marsden, Nicholas Gonzalez, Eugene Byrd, Karl Yun