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Incident at Loch Ness
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by Todd LaPlace

"Herzog’s kookiness cannot outpace total stupidity."
2 stars

This is a movie about an abandoned documentary about a European director shooting a failed documentary about the hype surrounding the Loch Ness Monster. Confused yet? The good thing is by the time Ricky Jay shows up to do card tricks, any interest this film’s premise may have generated is long gone. Then you get to look at a Playboy model walk around in a red, white and blue bikini for another 90 minutes and go home.

Once a key figure in the German cinematic new wave, filmmaker Werner Herzog has now pimped himself out to hack Hollywood screenwriter Zak Penn for the latter’s directorial debut, “Incident at Loch Ness.” Combining the vogue “What is reality” trend from the late ’90s with the recent success of mockumentaries like the BBC’s “The Office,” Penn has crafted a behind-the-scenes look at the supposed makings of Herzog’s latest film. The movie, which presents itself as a real documentary, was supposedly patched together from cinematographer John Bailey’s footage for “Herzog in Wonderland,” a film chronicling the life and career of Herzog. That film was to include footage shot during the 2003 summer Herzog was to spend in Scotland shooting “Enigma of Loch Ness,” yet another documentary, this one focusing on the myth and origin of the fictional creature.

This complicated plot, however, is just the smoke screen for Penn’s real picture. As the film wears on, this superficial layer melts away and the film descends into an outrageous parody of Hollywood “bigger is better” politics. Appearing as Herzog’s obnoxious producer, Penn goes out of his way to spruce up what would otherwise be a very boring documentary. He insists the crew wear cheesy matching jumpsuits, he releases a remote control model of “Nessie” back into the wild for extra drama and he hires a “sonar expert”/Playboy model to pose in a patriotic bikini as she sets up the underwater equipment. It is within these numerous, and somewhat excessive, moments that the premise starts to wear thin, as does our investment in the film.

Bewildering premises seem to suit Herzog just fine, but it’s the flat delivery that distances Penn’s “Incident” from the type of films his star once devised. Along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders, Herzog kicked started the cinematic revolution in post-war Germany by acknowledging the past and still referencing the shift in ’60s and ’70s social moods. Penn, too, is referencing a type of shift akin to Herzog and his cohorts, thanks especially to the pox on American society known as the reality TV craze, but Penn isn’t doing anything revolutionary and is merely engaging in his own form of cinematic masturbation. He’s so taken by his “brilliant” comment on current trends that he doesn’t see the dissolution of the glue weakly holding his film together.

In retrospect, the team should have foreseen their demise as the days wore on and the problems began building. Likewise, we should have been clued in early that this film was nothing more than a silly farce, as the film opens with a dreamlike dinner at Herzog’s home featuring cameos by eccentric odd-men Jeff Goldblum and Crispin Glover. This is just the beginning as the film continuously gets more ludicrous. But that’s not to say the film isn’t amusing. Appearances by the more odd members of the ragtag crew, including model Kitana Baker and crypto-zoologist Michael Karnow, are always good for a laugh, especially when Karnow is showing off his collection of artifacts of Sasquatch and a mysterious giant squid.

But these moments are not a guarantee of a fine feature. The sleazy Penn and the kooky Herzog play their respective simplified renderings well, most noticeably during their many disagreements. This dichotomy of mainstream Hollywood and art house cinema is an intriguing subject matter and one that is sure to spark plenty of discussion among cinephiles.

The film’s credibility is shred by a lackluster third act and the irony of the “Hollywoodization = bad” script coming from the man behind big budget bombs like “Last Action Hero.” The amalgam of the troublesome “Lost in La Mancha” making-of storyline with "Blair Witch"-style theatrics doesn’t support the flavorless narrative and can barely hold up the crunchy comedy coating, leaving us with too little to chew on once the credits start to roll.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10307&reviewer=401
originally posted: 05/12/05 17:52:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Film Festival series, click here.

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9/13/07 DC zak Penn is NO Christopher Guest. one of Werner's collection of BIG misses 1 stars
9/17/06 vice prezident that was awesome but wtf^ with that fake plastic monster they through in werner rocks 5 stars
5/25/06 Elisha Marr I didn't like the movie at all. Even for a hoax, it was WAY too scripted. 2 stars
11/27/05 ALBERT a good joke! 4 stars
5/23/05 Indrid Cold Moderately funny mockumentary. Herzog arrogantly assumes we know the myths surrounding him. 3 stars
9/25/04 Gray "prove to me its not..."=unscientific 3 stars
9/17/04 Fat Bastard this film rocks 5 stars
8/30/04 Sean Clarkson funny and entertaining, I went into it without any expectations I loved it! 5 stars
8/11/04 Sally Rover An inspired thought-provoking film that challenges our ideas of myth and cinema! 5 stars
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  17-Sep-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Mar-2005



Directed by
  Zak Penn

Written by
  Zak Penn

  Werner Herzog
  Jeff Goldblum
  Michael Karnow
  Zak Penn
  Pietro Scalia

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