Somewhere lost in time, there was a marketing meeting. Some execs thought they could put out a movie in which a giant alligator rampages through the sewers and some critic would blurt out, “It does for sewers what Jaws did for the ocean!” Well, that doesn’t really work, because no one in their right mind wants to go into a sewer, unless they’re being paid…a lot.
Alligator exists in that time when the ‘70s wanted to die and the ’80s were determined to get kick-started. It is a relic, a goofy, sloppy creature feature with a decent star (the alligator, not the humans), terribly clichéd and contrived script, and wasted characters.
There is still an appeal to Alligator though. The giant alligator prop is relatively convincing, munching on helpless humans within the first minute of screen time. Despite the poor miniature work by Bill Kaufman (his only credited effects work), the actual alligator is used effectively between prop shots. The idea that a baby alligator could grow so large by eating dead dogs discarded by a drug company is marginally unique too.
The gator actually belonged to Marisa (Robin Riker) as a child, who amazingly grew up to be a herpetologist, and amazingly happens to fall in love with the cop investigating the killer-gator case, and who amazingly is involved in the creatures eventual demise. That’s only a part of how contrived this John Sayles script is.
Characters are all stock players, including the rookie cop, grumbling police chief, scientist, and the big game hunter who exists purely to be eaten while trying to play the same role as Robert Shaw from Jaws. It doesn’t work that way.
Alligator closes on a big finale, one in which the Alligator inexplicably attacks the wedding of the drug company CEO’s daughter. The growth hormones apparently gave the gator ESP too, something the corporate world would love to get their hands on. That, or the script is even more contrived than originally thought. Probably the latter.