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'Anaconda': A Slight Squeeze

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 11, 1997

  Movie Critic

Scene from this movie

Luis Llosa
Jon Voight;
Jennifer Lopez;
Ice Cube;
Eric Stoltz;
Owen Wilson;
Jonathan Hyde;
Kari Wuhrer;
Vincent Castellanos
Running Time:
1 hour, 30 minutes
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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The price of a nice alligator bag is scarier than "Anaconda," a herpetological horror flick certain to draw more hisses than shrieks. Basically, what we have here is "Jaws" with fangs, the warmed-over story of a snake the length of the Jersey Turnpike in relentless pursuit of a river barge-load of eats.

The catch of the day: a documentary film crew in search of the Shirishama Indians, an elusive tribe allegedly living in the Brazilian rain forest. Organized by an anthropologist (Eric Stoltz), the team includes a first-time director (Jennifer Lopez), wisecracking cameraman Danny Rich (Ice Cube) and a self-important British narrator (Jonathan Hyde).

After engaging an enigmatic local (Vincent Castellanos) to pilot their boat, the guileless group sets out for Shirishama country with high hopes of reaching its goal. They have scarcely gotten underway, however, when they're joined by slithery Paul Sarone (Jon Voight), whom they rescue from a sinking boat. Apparently, their mothers never told them not to pick up hitchhikers . . . especially if they look like they've just escaped from a maximum security prison for the criminally insane.

Only the crew is surprised when the scowling, scarred-up Sarone turns out to be the Ahab of the Amazon. The ruthless nut job is obsessed with recapturing the one that got away and bringing it back alive. Of course, his rescuers have other ideas. For that matter, so does the stealthy anaconda.

Sarone, whose eyes dart like minnows, describes his beloved nemesis as "the perfect killing machine. . . . It strikes, wraps around you, holds you tighter than your true love and you get the privilege of hearing your bones break before the power of the embrace causes your veins to explode. Then it swallows you whole."

Sometimes, it spits you back up, too, but that's only after its digestive juices have gone to work on your pruney, purple flesh. Characters disgorged include the sound mixer (Owen Wilson) and his production manager-girlfriend (Kari Wuhrer). It's clear that they're soon to be chum when he turns, dreamy-eyed, to his love and inquires: "Is it just me, or does the jungle make you really, really horny?"

Whether vexed by sexual innuendo or bad dialogue, the viper strikes with the zeal of Miss Piggy diving into a bag of chips. I'm guessing it's the latter because there isn't enough time for much sex, given all the gastrointestinal goings-on.

In any case, Mr. Whipple squeezing his Charmin is scarier than this phony baloney computer effects-driven anaconda.

Anaconda is rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, sexuality.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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