Lake Placid (***) – Why is it that it takes great writers to truly appreciate a movie like Lake Placid? Back in the 70s, a young writer named John Sayles took on the topic of man-eating fish in the classic Piranha, and now David E. Kelley takes on a thirty-foot alligator in this film.Granted, we haven’t had a good giant alligator story since 1980s Alligator when the pre-comeback Robert Forster battled a giant alligator in Chicago, but we’ve had plenty of giant freak creature movies to feed our appetite. The most respected of all the recent entries in the genre had been Anaconda, a film which I will continue to write about how Roger Ebert gave it 3 ½ Stars. He also gave an unbelievable 3 stars to the amazingly bad Congo, a film which he claims was a comedy. Apparently he was the only one informed of that. Now comes Lake Placid, a film which seemed like prime Ebert material for writing about what a purely fun movie is supposed to be. Instead he shocked me by only giving it a single star, claiming that he didn’t know if it was a comedy or a horror film. All of a sudden he has trouble distinguishing between the two. Well, I saw the same film Friday night, and let me tell you that while it contains many elements of both – Lake Placid is a comedy. It just happens to have a giant alligator and a few quality kills. Ebert once wrote about the film The Princess Bride that Rob Reiner started with the look and feel of an old-fashioned fairy tale and then went for the laughs. That’s what happens here too. Lake Placid starts out like Jaws and then has a lot of fun setting up the characters who have the potential to be lizard bait. Bill Pullman plays the standard issue Bill Pullman character. A lot of fun is made of the Bridget Fonda character and how she keeps getting thrown into the water and heads thrown at her. But the comedy heart of this film lies in the two characters of the always-terrific Oliver Platt and the hick sheriff played by Brendan Gleeson. The banter between the two of them makes you wish for a road movie with them. David E. Kelley makes all these characters so likable and funny, that you actually do care a little if they get eaten. Oh yeah – this film has a 30-foot crocodile eating humans and cows and bears, oh my. But even the feedings in this film provide some laughs, because most of the time they are incredibly extreme. For a moment you’re shocked, but then you laugh at the fact this film went that far, looking and feeling like a tense thriller.Now I liked Anaconda. It’s a fun snake movie that I gave three stars, but was actually more terrified of the Jon Voight character than of the actual snake. And while I hate snakes and was rooting against it, I didn’t really have any rooting interest for any of the characters in that film. Jennifer Lopez and Kari Wuhrer might be losses, but Ice Cube and Eric Stoltz? Nobody in that film was interesting, yet it was still a fun snake movie. Lake Placid has interesting characters and I was rooting for them especially against the foul-mouthed Betty White. This movie is a lot of fun and shouldn’t be mistaken for anything but. Roger – go watch Congo again.