Close your eyes and say the title of "Big Ass Spider!" to yourself, exclamation point included. Smile. Enjoy it, it's fun. And now you have more or less seen "Big Ass Spider!"
The film exists in a strange, unique position of being exactly the movie it looks like — a goofy contemporary riff on cheapie creature features — yet somehow still feels like a letdown, in part for its lack of surprise or invention. The movie has a fan's heart, a sense of loving every goofball moment, but as directed by Mike Mendez it also seems perpetually caught between being a spoof or playing it straight and winds up falling between the cracks rather than rising above.
Greg Grunberg plays an exterminator battling a 50-foot spider after it escapes from a military lab and sets off on a rampage through Los Angeles. But it is Lombardo Boyar, playing a hospital security guard who becomes the exterminator's sidekick, who steals the movie at most every turn. (Venerable character actor Ray Wise comes in a close second.)
The nature of the movie means that any deficiencies are sort of rolled back into its own aesthetic, in that it's meant to be OK that the acting is bad or when the special effects look cheap and unconvincing. Oddly, the film's practical effects — blood, blown heads and the like — are actually pretty good, which makes the lackluster computer effects stand out even more glaringly. "Spider" isn't good-bad or just plain bad, it just is. Which for a movie of this kind is kind of the worst thing of all.
"Big Ass Spider!" Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and gore. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At Laemmle NoHo 7, TCL Chinese 6 and Laemmle Playhouse 7.
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