Incident At Loch Ness

on September 17, 2004 by Richard Mowe
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The mockumentary, as styled by "The Blair Witch Project" and the films of Christopher Guest, is alive and well and living in Zak Penn's highly amusing "Incident at Loch Ness," which takes its cues from such "unmaking-of" documentaries such as "Lost in La Mancha."

It follows (or does it?) Werner Herzog's disastrous attempt to make a film about the Loch Ness monster and mixes fact and fiction into a heady cocktail. The idea of the flamboyant German director, who made such challenging works as "Fitzcarraldo" and "La Soufriere," seeking out the fabled monster in the depths of the Scottish loch is hilarious in itself. Keep in mind that Herzog once employed 500 Indians to haul a steamship up a South American mountain for "Fitzcarraldo," which was about a man who wants to build an opera house in the Amazon jungle.

All the notions of what constitutes truth are paraded as the legendary director sends himself up in gloriously straight-faced fashion as the production descends into chaos. Director Zak Penn plays the role of Herzog's producer, "Zak Penn." Penn, a successful screenwriter in his own right (he wrote "Behind Enemy Lines" and "X-Men 2"), also parodies himself as the archetypal Hollywood exec throwing his weight around. Add Playboy model Kitana Baker to the expedition in a stars-and-stripes bikini and the loony quotient just grows.

The comedy derives from the way Herzog and his co-conspirators interact with each other and some rather incredulous locals. David Davidson has worked as marine coordinator on several films, including Ewan McGregor's "Young Adam," and was hired in that capacity for Herzog's "film." He was told it was a documentary and he would appear on camera, though he thought he would just be in the background. He was surprised when he was told his 'character' was coming across so well his role was being expanded. He was encouraged to improvise around a script.

It doesn't spoil the enjoyment one jot to know that it's all an elaborate ruse. Or is it? Starring Werner Herzog, Zak Penn, Kitana Baker, Gabriel Beristain and Michael Karnow. Directed and written by Zak Penn. Produced by Zak Penn, Werner Herzog, Thomas Augsberger and Jay Rifkin. A Fox release. Mockumentary. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. Running time: 94 min

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