January 29, 2011 at 12:00 PM EST

Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid could have been the perfect Saturday-night SyFy movie. It had what its title promised: mega-sized pythons and gigantic alligators, eating people and each other. It had this genre’s requisite washed-up star-power in ’80s pop singers Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Gibson played a radical animal-rights activist. Tiffany portrayed a park ranger with her uniform sufficiently unbuttoned to reveal that she may have been trying to smuggle newborn twins into the Everglades. The horror started out promisingly in the opening moments, when a python ate a dog and then vomited out the remains. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid did something that other stalwarts of this genre, such as Sharktopus and Dinocroc Vs. Supergator, did not do: It called attention to how bad, campy, and trashy it was; the actors did everything except wink coyly at the camera. This is bad, because the key to enjoying these junky films is for us to be able to laugh at how ludicrous they are, while everyone in the film itself is behaving as though real lives are at stake, that real danger is at hand.

You had to have high hopes early on when Tiffany’s boyfriend kissed her while a bunch of backwoods Everglades yokels shouted things like, “Kiss her like a man — put yer tongue down her throat!” But pretty soon, people were bidding goodbye to each other by saying, “Later, ‘gator,” and Tiffany was feeding super-steroid-filled chickens to alligators and then shouting way too self-consciously, “There’s nothing crazy about this! What could go wrong?”

Even worse, Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid had an actual subtext: The ’80s manufactured “feud” between Gibson and Tiffany was worked into the plot here by pitting Gibson’s animal activist against Tiffany’s I-hate-activists ranger. By the time the two got into a rolling-around, hair-pulling cat-fight that was set at a party rather than among pythons and gators, the movie had lost its sense of purpose.

True, the terrible special-effects that made the pythons and gators huge were awesome.

And true, it was great to see old Kathryn Joosten, from Desperate Housewives and The West Wing, playing a park ranger who got chomped by a creature while shooting her ranger-pistol.

And yes, I did enjoy seeing former Monkee Micky Dolenz get the smirk bitten off of him by a monster. And hearing a puffy-looking A Martinez warn citizens of “a gator of literally massive proportions!”

What I didn’t like was arch dialogue such, “So this is how a Monkee is going to save the Everglades!” and Tiffany saying to Gibson, “You crazy, cold blooded, snake-loving bitch!”

That’s the kind of stuff we like to yell at our TV screens. When they do it, it just seems goofy. I didn’t tune in to Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid to watch Tiffany and Debbie Gibson try to revive their careers by proving how knowing and ironic they are; I just wanted to see some weirdly bad monsters and the kind of obliviously awful but sincere acting Eric Roberts did in Sharktopus.

Too bad; better trash next time, SyFy. This was just okay, and ultimately, a disappointment.

Agree? Disagree?

Twitter: @kentucker

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