Sequel is worse than the original



The story is bad, and the acting isn't any better.
By DAVID GERMAIN
ASSOCIATED PRESS
The similarities are striking: A new director revives a movie franchise about a scary beast.
In each case, the sequel comes seven years after the original. Both franchises started with one word titles beginning with the letter A, then switched to plurals to note that the sequel featured multiple monsters.
OK, there is a minor difference. The 1979 film "Alien" was a big-time hit that scared the pants off people, and the 1986 follow-up, "Aliens," ranks among the best sequels ever.
The 1997 snake tale "Anaconda" was bad but turned a respectable profit. Its 2004 sequel, "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid," makes the first movie seem like a horror classic.
"Anacondas" has not the pleasant fragrance of a rare orchid but the stink of something digested and expelled by a snake with an intestinal disorder. The movie's only achievement is that it's so stupidly plotted and badly acted, it becomes unintentionally funny here and there.
Behind the film
Other than the big snakes, the only notable connection between "Anaconda" and the sequel is producer Verna Harrah. The three "Anaconda" screenwriters receive a story credit on "Anacondas," whose dunderheaded script took four people to write.
What they all came up with is a lame-brained idea about a ship of boobs sailing the jungle rivers of Borneo in search of the blood orchid, the "pharmaceutical equivalent of the fountain of youth." Turns out it's mating season for humongous, hungry anacondas, which have gathered to serve as the welcome wagon for our intrepid orchid seekers.
Performances
The only reasonably well-known cast member is Morris Chestnut as an entrepreneur who orchestrates the expedition. Other cast members -- called "fresh and energetic" in the movie's production notes, to which you can read "cheap, unknown and available" -- are obscure actors, and from their performances here, they're likely to remain just that.
Granted, "Anaconda" star Jennifer Lopez wasn't about to return for seconds on a cheapo sequel. But there must be better actors out there willing to be swallowed by giant snakes.
The worst performance comes from the lead player, stiff and wooden Johnny Messner as a river rat whose rickety boat carries the orchid expedition into the jungle. Whether from innate dullness or curious instructions from director Dwight Little to emote like a life-size ventriloquist's dummy, Messner could be the most monotonous screen tough guy since Dolph Lundgren.
The rest of the key cast -- KaDee Strickland, Matthew Marsden, Eugene Byrd, Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Karl Yune -- are just garden-variety bad by comparison.
The one decent performance comes from the boat's mascot, a cute little monkey whose screams of terror provide the movie's only expressive and heartfelt moments.
Other disappointments
The various special effects, including plenty of computer-generated imagery to create the giant snakes, mostly look chintzy. The anacondas are not remotely scary, the action and stunts are lame and the movie has no suspense, no chills.
Then there's the dialogue.
"Everything gets eaten out here," Messner's character drones in his deadest, dullest voice. "It's a jungle."
Well, duh.
Too bad the master print of this lemon didn't get accidentally dropped into that jungle and eaten by an anaconda. Then again, the snake probably would have coughed it back up from the lousy taste.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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