Sunday, September 6, 2015

SyFy vs. the Mynd: Lavalantula (2015)

90s action hero Colton West (Steve Guttenberg, who is not going to be the only Police Academy alumnus in the movie) has gone on the usual career trajectory of men of his profession, and is now doing supposedly undignified one day/10.000 dollar stints in cardboard action movies (a financial situation the film seems to think horrible, which suggests the scriptwriters involved have never talked to the women scrubbing their toilets), when he isn’t tricked into working on bug-based monster films, clearly a torture for a guy who hates bugs.

Colton will have to get over his fear of bugs right quick, though, because when the Santa Monica Mountains explode in a volcanic explosion, they spit out giant, lava-breathing spiders (and yeah, I know spiders aren’t insects); well, at least it’s not maggots. Because Colton’s son Wyatt (Noah Hunt) has gone off in a huff after your typical SyFy family problems, our hero will have to use all his movie-learned powers of action heroism to cross Los Angeles to save his son, rescuing random people in the process. Colton’s wife Olivia (Nia Peeples) will pretty much do the same once she has realized there actually are giant lava-breathing spiders attacking, and it’s not Colton having crawled back into the bottle.

And while the Wests are at it, they just might as well grab the crew of Colton’s last movie and save the whole of LA by themselves.

Oh, popularity of Sharknado, what hast thou wrought? Well, in the case of Mike Mendez’s Lavalantula actually nothing horrible, but a fluffy, fun, and reasonably fast monster comedy that doesn’t waste any actual time on the family trouble subplot (probably because flattening a giant spider with a military truck is proof of love enough for anyone) and instead indulges in a lot of mildly self-ironic little jokes about the more well-worn parts of the entertainment industry.

Pleasantly enough, the film does this without either becoming too cynical or indulging in the kind of entertainment culture self-pity that’d make the film hateful to anyone who thinks 10.000 dollars for one hour of work sounds like a pretty sweet deal, and quite a bit more dignified than most stuff you get paid 10 dollars or less an hour for to boot. Instead Mendez’s film is all about (not un-ironically) embracing the tacky, the desperate and the trashy as a potentially life-saving part of culture, which is an idea pretty close to my heart, though I’d add the at best uncaring cosmos to it somewhere (of course).

Anyway, the parts between the jokes are decent and generally entertaining monster movie staples, with Mendez demonstrating an eye for set pieces that feel more impressive than they necessarily should be, not too shabby CGI monsters (the explosions on the other hand do look pretty bad), and a cast that’s game for this sort of thing.

Guttenberg turns out to be a surprisingly excellent aged action hero - and his actually aged comedian identity obviously helps the whole “being funny” business - and Nia Peeples just screams for a SyFy movie where she isn’t playing second fiddle. Well, Michael Winslow is still annoying as all get out once he starts with the human noise box crap, but honestly, I found Lavalantula entertaining enough to just be able to ignore him.

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