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KIDS ON FILM

Squeezing Thrills From 'Anaconda'

May 01, 1997|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In "Anaconda," a large, mean snake stalks a group of unsuspecting folks who are out to discover a lost tribe in the jungle. When they are joined by a professional snake hunter, who just happens to be evil, things get really bad. Rated PG-13.

Isn't the shark supposed to be "the perfect killing machine"? Isn't that what they told us in all those "Jaws" movies?

Well, according to "Anaconda," it's really a big constricting snake. How big? More than 40 feet long, and with the speed of a cheetah that has spent the day slithering through a Starbucks.

But if giant anacondas are so nasty, how come so many kids at a recent screening thought "Anaconda" was just ho-hum?

Michael Fair, 13, of Santa Ana summed it up this way: "You already know [the anaconda] is going to kill everybody . . . then somebody will kill him. That's all."

His friend Jesse Hyland, 12 and also from Santa Ana, thought the snake was frightening to watch but agreed that the picture was predictable. Perfect killing machines, it turns out, don't always make for perfect surprises.

"Really great monster!" Jesse said. Then he thought about it. "I got bored in the middle."

Elizabeth Sanchez, 14, of Costa Mesa said she enjoyed the beautiful scenery. The lush jungle surrounding the mysterious Amazon River appealed to her love of wildlife, although she hated it when a character played by Jon Voight shot a monkey out of a tree to use as snake bait.

"That was gross," she protested.

The filmmakers actually do take a moment or two to reflect on the ecology, even as the snake is moving toward its appointment with mayhem. The head anthropologist (played by Eric Stoltz) briefly mentions the balance of nature and disruption of the system, but that didn't seem to register with most of the youngsters we talked to.

Elizabeth noted that her teacher has "talked about that place," that is, the rain forests in South America, "but I didn't really think about it during the movie."

Paul Cameron, 9, of Fountain Valley wondered if a snake could really be as fearsome as the one in "Anaconda."

Told that Hollywood has been known to toy big-time with the facts, and that there aren't really any anacondas that large, that fast, that smart and that single-minded about eating humans, the boy brightened.

"I knew it was just a movie!"

Everybody agreed that "Anaconda" has some nifty (and creepy) special effects. At one point, we see the snake with the outline of a victim's face and body on its belly. We also see the anaconda catching a man by the head in midair as he falls.

But Michael's favorite was when the snake regurgitated a victim to feed her many offspring.

"That was sick!" Michael said, grinning and adding that it also was way cool.

* FAMILY FILMGOER, Page 12

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