Snakes on a Plane
2006Director: David R. Ellis
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips
nakes on a Plane lands in theatres with at least the same amount of hype, via the online geek community, as any new installment in the game console wars. It’s also likely that these are the same people who months ago propelled an unimaginatively titled b-movie (it was to be retitled Pacific Flight 121 until Samuel L. Jackson rescued it from the horrors of auto-annihilation) into overkill cultdom. After a series of blog entries posted a year ago by scriptwriter Josh Friedman, culminating with the forever-to-be-quoted line “there are motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane,” the movie was propelled into the consciousness of internet surfers everywhere. With no reviews or press screenings prior to its release and the mountains of Web-fueled hype, Snakes had a lot to live up to
Not only does it justly deserve the title of most highly anticipated movie of the year (this side of The Da Vinci Code), the exorbitant online frenzy forced New Line to beef up the movie with more violence, more profanity, and more nudity than was initially intended. So, does the movie in which a gunned-up Samuel L. Jackson is made to scream obscenities about snakes live up to its name? Yes. And no.Snakes is, in many ways, exactly what the net-heads that made it into a sensation of sorts were hoping for: funny, absurd, and gory. But it was also inevitable that, with a fan-driven media machine of this scale, the movie would never mange to deliver enough campiness to satisfy everyone.
Snakes deserves to be seen for its glorious title and Samuel L. Jackson’s profanity shouting do-all hero attacking snakes in the cockpit alone. But there is little here to convince us that all avenues of idiocy have been explored and exploited. David R. Ellis’s slapdash direction is camp, though never as camp as it could be, and it is excessive, in a go-on-let-that-snake-tickle-her-boobs-while-she’s-asleep way. Which all suggests that once the initial premise is dispensed, the thrills age pretty quickly. Big snakes, small snakes, West-Virginia-sized mammoth snakes—there is no shortage of them. Yet there are only so many ways in which snakes jumping randomly at people, dangling down out of oxygen mask compartments or biting boobs and penises can amuse someone.
You don’t really need to see the movie to know what it’s about, and Snakes on a Plane plays this to its advantage. For those of you in a total culture vacuum, the movie stars Samuel L. Jackson as a tough FBI agent hired to escort surfer boy Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips), a prosecution witness against LA’s top mobster. But where a free flight in business class sounded too good to be true, surfer boy and his escort soon find themselves targets of a sophisticated plot to release—wait for it—more than 500 poisonous snakes on their L.A.-bound plane from Hawaii. And…this is where I’ll stop because that’s all you need to know, really.
This was meant to be good trash, a bad movie in all but name that was great fun to watch. The movie is still a lot of fun, in a schadenfreude kind of way, but the jokes are dispensed with little wit; there isn’t much fun in seeing the 357th snake crawl across the aisle or the umpteenth homophobic joke involving the air… you guess who. With a movie of this title, plot development automatically becomes of secondary importance, and there would be nothing wrong with this had the camp factor been ramped up to 11 immediately. Legions of CGI snakes are great fun and occasionally quiver-inducing but the cheese factor is shattered by a disappointing production style the Final Destination trilogy would happily employ (speaking of which, Ellis counts Final Destination 2 among his filmography).
Samuel L. Jackson is terrific, delivering his lines in exactly the way the rest of the movie should have been delivered. The sack of stereotypes that became the passengers on the plane (Stewardess: “I’m afraid only coach is available.” Posh blonde with a Chihuahua in her bag: “Coach?! Is it safe there?”) is often hilarious, though occasionally predictable. I was expecting less of a conservative rehash of Airplane!, and more of an over-the-top guilt trip I’d want to revisit whenever Python wasn’t on. Forget disaster movies and terrorist metaphors—what you’ve heard is exactly what you get. Snakes on a Plane is highly entertaining schlock with a perfect title. Don’t worry, though. There’ll undoubtedly be a sequel.
Snakes on a Plane is playing in theatres across the country.
By: Sandro Matosevic
Published on: 2006-08-21