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David E Kelly is arguably one of the most prolific and successful writer/producers working in TV today. He is the driving force behind a string of hit shows both past (Picket Fences, Chicago Hope) and present (Ally McBeal, The Pratice, Boston Public).  
Using the television format, he creates quirky characters and puts them into interesting and most times, moralistic situations.  This aspect of his career is tried and tested.  His crossover into the full length feature format has been less than successful. The two major feature films he has been involved with have enjoyed brief theatrical runs before settling down to life on cable or video. From this pedigree Lake Placid came a little out of left field

Lake Placid
Movie
Lake Placid is a giant alligator chase, in the way Jaws was a giant fish chase.  Following a grizzly attack of a diver in a Maine lake, the local sheriff (Brendon Gleeson) calls in an expert from the State Fish and Game Department, Jack Wells (Bill Pullman) to investigate.  A museum opinion is needed and as the result of some cruel interoffice politics, paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) is sent to Maine to examine a tooth believed to be from the unknown creature. Not long after, eccentric millionaire Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) choppers in to help find (and swim with) the creature.  A few twists and turns aside, it then becomes a race to find the creature before it kills again.

As usual though with Kelley, the main thrust of entertainment comes from the interaction of the characters.  The dialogue is witty and fast paced and all of the characters are well fleshed out. There is a rhythm to their flow and I wouldn’t be surprised if the onset mood was fairly relaxed; Director Steve Miner (who cut his teeth in horror films and television) manages to squeeze a surprising amount of tension into the film.  The suspense works well to offset the continuous comedy.  It is this that stops the film from becoming a farce: it has just enough of both comedy and horror to work well.

Video
This film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen, in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.  This film was shot in Canada and for the most part, it consists of murky blacks, woody browns and luscious greens.  Overall a very subdued and earthy colour palate.  There is nothing spectacular about this film visually and nothing here that would detracted from the performances either. Colour reproduction is good, with all colours nicely saturated. There were a few grainy film-to-video artifacts in some of the more frenetic water scenes, but nothing that interrupted my enjoyment of the film.

Lake Placid
The only complaint I would have about this presentation is that most of the alligator scenes were made using Computer Graphics (CG).  Where this shows up realistic enough on film, DVD is by it’s very nature too clear and I found that the CG stood out like the proverbial.

Audio
This film has a Dolby Digital 5.1 Channel Soundtrack.  This is an interesting sound mix in that it has to balance a lot of dialogue with a few short, sporadic action scenes.  The dialogue was always well separated and easy understandable. There is a satisfactory use of surrounds for ambient noises, action scenes and there are a few instances of helicopters as well (a surround favourite).  The score was practical and held few surprises.  Not a stunning 5.1 track by any stretch of the imagination, but perfectly suited to the movie itself.

Extras
This DVD seems to contain an almost identical of extra features, but I couldn’t locate the theatrical trailer touted on the packaging.  The disc does include 3 TV spots – Survive(0:32), Hunted (0:32) and Swim/Review (0:32).  All of which are framed at non-anamorphic enhanced 1.85:1 and feature Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.  In addition to this there is a 5-and-a-half minute promotional “featurette” (I am loathe to describe anything under 20 minutes as a featurette). It contains on-set interviews with all four top billed actors and Director Steve miner.  It featured both 4:3 interview footage intercut with footage from the film. To round out the special features, the disc also contains cast and crew biographies of the top billed actors and director.
In terms of this film though, I don’t see that it’s the sort of marquee title that needs to be supported by truckloads of extras. It has to be said though that I would rather see discs like this than those that claim to be “packed” with extras, but leave you feeling disappointed at a lack of substance.

Lake Placid
Summary
Lake Placid is this sort of entertainment I have come to expect from David E Kelley.  It also seemed that in this film, his style translated a little better than previous outings.   Some solid performances by Platt, Fonda and Gleeson make this an enjoyable and entertaining film that doesn’t take itself too seriously.


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