The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)
You've seen that oft-repeated PBS documentary on Gustav, the man-eating African croc? "Primeval" is an absurd Disney fictionalization of his tale, that of a 25- to 30-foot Burundi crocodile who eats and eats and eats Africans in the middle of nowhere.
But when the film begins, he chomps down on a European (white) pathologist. Not smart.
"He's like O.J. Simpson," cracks TV cameraman Steven (Orlando Jones). "He messed up when he killed that white woman."
Jones pretends he's in another, funnier version of this movie. He's the wiseacre videographer sent with producer Tim (Dominic Purcell of TV's "Prison Break") and cutesy "animal story" reporter Akiva (Brooke Langton) to capture the monster Gustav for a TV network "in time for sweeps."
There's a "Crocodile Hunter" clone (Gideon Emery) with a big cage, a guy who cares more for reptiles than people. There's also a grizzled great white hunter, played by Jurgen Prochnow, with his finger on the trigger of an elephant gun.
Prochnow is acting as if he's in a better version of "Primeval," too, one in which his cragged face and reptilian eyes suggest a human version of the monster he hunts. He's had a lifelong war with a beast that won't be captured, as PBS discovered (a French team, if memory serves).
The movie is a wild, idiotic mash-up of "Hotel Rwanda" civil-war atrocities and cheap gotchas from the cartoon croc. John Brancato ("Catwoman") had a hand in the script, so maybe the tone problems start there.
The TV crew is caught up in a bloody warlord's slaughter of his own people, and the crocodile is making a meal of anyone foolish enough to enter the water.
There's lots of water. Everywhere. Where do the TV folks take refuge when things go wrong? In a shack on stilts. In the water.
Tired bits about tracking devices that beep, ratcheting up suspense as Gustav approaches, and the odd unnerving attack are lost in much chatter and chase among the uncivil civil warriors. We lose track, literally, of "the most efficient killing machine on the planet" time and again. The civil war is "the real story," the reporters say. The screenwriter must've believed them.
Don't get attached to anybody, or anything. Poor actors. They took off to make a movie in Africa and all they got was a stinking, fake-blood-soaked T-shirt.
Plan on being offended. With torture, murder, attempted rape, slavery jokes, a veiled swipe at the late Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, unflattering depictions of TV news executives, TV news reporters, Africans in general and Burundians in particular, it's no wonder Disney tried to sneak this one into theaters with little advertising and without screening it for critics.
It wasn't just the badly animated crocodile they were embarrassed by.
1 star (out of 5)
Cast: Dominic Purcell, Orlando Jones, Brooke Langton, Jurgen Prochnow.
Director: Michael Katleman.
Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
Industry rating: R for strong graphic violence, brutality, terror and language.
(c) 2007, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
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