there may not be a critic alive who harbors as much affection for shlock monster movies as i do .
i delighted in the sneaky-smart entertainment of ron underwood's big-underground-worm yarn tremors ; i even giggled at last year's critically-savaged big-underwater-snake yarn anaconda .
something about these films causes me to lower my inhibitions and return to the saturday afternoons of my youth , spent in the company of ghidrah , the creature from the black lagoon and the blob .
deep rising , a big-undersea-serpent yarn , doesn't quite pass the test .
sure enough , all the modern monster movie ingredients are in place : a conspicuously multi-ethnic/multi-national collection of bait . . . excuse
me , characters ; an isolated location , here a derelict cruise ship in the south china sea ; some comic relief ; a few cgi-enhanced gross-outs ; and at least one big explosion .
there are too-cheesy-to-be-accidental elements , like a sleazy shipping magnate ( anthony heald ) who also appears to have a doctorate in marine biology , or a slinky international jewel thief ( famke janssen ) whose white cotton tank top hides a heart of gold .
as it happens , deep rising is noteworthy primarily for the mechanical manner in which it spits out all those ingredients .
a terrorist crew , led by squinty-eyed mercenary hanover ( wes studi ) and piloted by squinty-eyed boat captain finnegan ( treat williams ) , shows up to loot the cruise ship ; the sea monsters show up to eat the mercenary crew ; a few survivors make it to the closing credits .
and up go the lights .
it's hard to work up much enthusiasm for this sort of joyless film-making , especially when a monster moview should make you laugh every time it makes you scream .
here , the laughs are provided almost entirely by kevin j . o'connor , generally amusing as the crew's fraidy-cat mechanic .
writer/director stephen sommers seems most concerned with creating a tone of action-horror menace -- something over-populated with gore-drenched skeletons , something where the gunfire and special effects are taken a bit too seriously .
deep rising is missing that one unmistakable cue that we're expected to have a ridiculous good time , not hide our eyes .
case it point , comparing deep rising to its recent cousin anaconda .
in deep rising , one of the creature's victims is regurgitated back into view , partially digested and still alive .
he shrieks in horror at his freakish appearance and pain , in a moment a bit too disturbing to be laughable .
in anaconda , we also see a regurgitated victim , partially digested and still alive .
he looks at another character . . . and
make no mistake , deep rising has anaconda beat all to heck when it comes to technical proficiency and pacing .
it's also gloomy , uninspired and not nearly enough fun .
i don't ask much of my monster movies , but i do ask that they act like monster movies .
you don't have to show me a fantastically impressive , massive beast with tentacles a-flailing .
just show me the massive beast burping , and i'll figure you get the point .