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Saturday, September 1, 2012

LAKE EFFECTS -- DVD review by porfle

Sometimes a chick flick is just good enough to be tolerable for people who hate chick flicks.  And then there's LAKE EFFECTS (2012), the kind that should be preceeded by a warning from Wilford Brimley that watching it may cause dia-beet-us. 

Jeff Fahey is Ray, a laidback retiree who gives his wife Vivian (Jane Seymour) a single pink rose every day (awwww...) and loves nothing more than gettin' up at the crack of dawn for a day of fishing on his beloved Smith Mountain Lake.  Ray's the most likable character in the movie, so naturally he gets killed in the first five minutes.  Don't worry, though, because thanks to dream sequences and flashbacks he'll manage to wear out his welcome in ghostly form.

Ray's death has a big effect on his three gals.  His wife Vivian withdraws into a morose, teary-eyed bore who could use a good dose of electro-shock therapy to snap her out of it.  His free-spirited daughter Lily (Madeline Zima, who used to be cute on "The Nanny" but now is just kind of odd) finds herself stifled and resentful because she has to stay home and take care of Vivian now that Ray's been gone for, like, two days.  And Sara (Scottie Thompson, "NCIS", "Trauma"), a business lawyer who got the hell out of there early on, resents having to come back to Hicksville for her dad's funeral. 

We know Sara is uptight because she wears a business-suit-and-skirt outfit that looks like a mobile torture device.  We know Lily is a free spirit because she does transcendental meditation and tells a little kid in her art class that it's okay to paint a green sky.  When they get together at the local bar to have a sisterly whine over old times, their fellow townspeople are all so warm, folksy, and eccentric that it would make even Garrison Keillor sick to his stomach.  It didn't take long before their stifling folksiness had me sympathizing with Sara's original desire to get out of there and never come back.

While Sara's inexplicably being excoriated by both Lily and Vivian for actually having a life, we're meant to be charmed by a subplot involving a group of emotionally-stunted geeks who believe there's a prehistoric monster living in Smith Mountain Lake.  The film tries to shoehorn such sitcom-level humor together with the teary-eyed stuff, which means that a scene featuring the unfunny lake monster geeks is followed immediately by one of Vivian bawling over a box of withered rose petals as the maudin music swells, and we're expected to switch gears into "cry mode" just like that. 

The entire film is like an emotional check list with a series of crappy emo ballads telling us how we're supposed to feel so the script won't have to.  The dialogue is so lame that one running gag between the sisters consists of the "in bed" thing--if you haven't heard that one, don't feel bad for being lost. 

Disjointed editing shuffles us from one scene to the next like an impatient tour guide, while the acting itself, with the possible exception of Thompson and Fahey, is surprisingly awful--Madeline Zima in particular just doesn't come off very well here.  Casper Van Dien is okay in a subplot featuring him as Sara's corporate pretty-boy fiance' Ash, who conveniently becomes the film's bad guy when it's discovered that he...well, I won't give away the big twist.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with English Dolby 5.1 and French 2.0 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Bonus features include some deleted scenes and a featurette, "The Ripple Effect: The Making of 'Lake Effects'." 

As much as I hate chick flicks, I'll give a good one the benefit of the doubt if it's clearly a cut above the rest.  But when you hook one as dull and dumb as LAKE EFFECTS, my advice is to throw it back.

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