Snakes on a Plane


Snakes on a Plane

Rachel Blanchard reacts to the news that she's been cast in Snakes on a Plane.

(New Line) Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard, David Koechner, Bobby Cannavale, Todd Louiso, Byron Lawson, Flex Alexander, Kenan Thompson, Keith “Blackman” Dallas, Lin Shaye, Bruce James, Sunny Mabrey, Terry Chen, Emily Holmes. Directed by David Ellis.

I’ve got two words for ya – guilty pleasure. That’s all you need know about Snakes On a Plane. The internet buzz on this was incredible as fans or would-be fans design trailers, posters and merchandise in perhaps the most interactive marketing campaign in the history of movies. All the hype has really kind of obscured the fact that there is a movie behind it.

Young Hawaiian surfer dude Sean (Phillips) has witnessed a murder and not just any murder. He watched crime boss Eddie Kim (Lawson) use a baseball bat to bludgeon the district attorney that is prosecuting his case. You know that’s gonna leave a mark.

Unfortunately, Fast Eddie and his generic thugs realize that there was a witness and go to do unpleasant things to him. However, he is saved by the unfortunately-named FBI agent Nelville Flynn (Jackson), a curmudgeonly all-business kind of guy. Hey, if I was named Nelville Flynn I’d probably be in a perpetually bad mood too. Nelville convinces Sean to fly back to Los Angeles from Hawaii to testify against Kim and put him away for good.

However, the nefarious crime lord has arranged a little surprise. He has managed to smuggle a load of poisonous snakes into the cargo hold of the flight that the FBI agent and his witness are taking, and not even ordinary poisonous snakes. No, he has arranged for the deadliest snakes from around the world to be the special guests aboard the flight (but he’s so cheap he makes them fly coach). These are the exotic snakes for which the anti-venom is terribly rare and hard to find in the States.

Basically that’s all the plot you need to know. The rest of the movie is made up of the terrified passengers and crew trying to keep the plane aloft while they get snakes attacking any and every orifice on the human body, not to mention every bit of genitalia they can find. Admittedly most of the human cast members are walking, talking cliches – the plucky stewardess (Margulies), the spoiled rich girl (Blanchard), the quirky rapper (Alexander) and his bodyguards – the big one (Dallas) and the video game-obsessed one (Thompson). Then there’s the matronly mentor stewardess (Shaye), the effeminate steward (James), the oversexed nymphet (Holmes), the slimy co-pilot (Koechner), the kick-ass FBI agent (Cannavale) and the nerdy snake expert (Louiso). The fun comes in trying to figure out which ones will still be vertical at the end of the movie.

Don’t think too hard about anything onscreen or your head will just explode, and who wants to see blood and grey matter on the couch? This is all concept and no plot, and logic takes a backseat to pacing. Once the snakes get loose, it’s a rollercoaster and the best thing to do is just sit back, enjoy the ride and ask no questions. How did Nelville know to rescue Sean at his apartment when he hadn’t reported the murder to the police? Don’t even think about it. You can feel the C-4 in your head beginning to burst if you do.

This is Jackson’s movie to carry and he does so with panache. He does the movie straight which is actually a good thing. Too much of that grin and wink stuff and the movie turns into self-parody and suffers because of it. Instead, he’s just serious enough to keep the movie in the realm of semi-serious. Most of the humor comes in the over-the-top approach the filmmakers and effects crew take. Why film a dozen snakes when you can film 450, and why have snakes chow down on human adults when they can swallow them whole. Are you questioning it? I can smell the smoke coming out of your ears all the way from here. Not worth it man. Just go with it.

This is pure empty-headed fun, the kind of thing that you watch, enjoy and forget about 15 minutes later. There was never a possibility of any Oscars for Snakes on a Plane unless they started handing them out for marketing campaigns, which they didn’t, but that’s okay by me. This is the kind of summer movie fun that wears it’s intentions on its sleeves and let’s face it; there is nothing wrong with a bit of harmless brainless visceral pleasure.

WHY RENT THIS: Pure empty-headed fun that never tries to reach beyond it’s grasp. Perhaps the walking talking poster boy for guilty pleasures. This is the ultimate Samuel L. Jackson movie with his ultimate line – “Get those motherbleepin’ snakes off my motherbleepin’ plane!”

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Anyone who requires a dose of logic with their plot will find themselves banging their heads against the living room wall after seeing this.

FAMILY VALUES: To put it succinctly, no family has these kinds of values but let’s face it – it’s all in fun. Older teens will think it a bit dated (despite only being four years old) but enjoyable; just about anyone younger than that will have nightmares over the snakes, the drug use, the language, the sex, the violence and the acting.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film’s title originated at an after-work get-together at a local watering hole by several studio employees who played a game where each tried to come up with the worst possible pitch; the winner was Craig Berenson, who then worked at DreamWorks and eventually served as producer on the movie.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: Some of the fan films that helped fan the initial internet hype are included here.  There is also a gag reel, a music video of Cobra Starship’s title song and a making-of featurette of the music video.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $62M on a $33M production budget; the film broke even.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Wendy and Lucy

Miss March


Miss March

Women would rather kiss each other than Trevor Moore.

(Fox Searchlight) Zach Cregger, Trevor Moore, Raquel Alessi, Craig Robinson, Molly Stanton, Hugh Hefner, Sara Jean Underwood, Carla Jimenez. Directed by Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore

Change is inevitable, and no matter how much you want them to remain the same, things never do. We turn around and then one day we realize how much our lives have changed in, oh, four years or so. You know what they say: time flies when you’re in a coma.

Eugene (Cregger) and Tucker (Moore) have been friends for life. High school is coming to an end and the straight-arrow Eugene has yet to have sex with his girlfriend Cindi (Alessi). Tucker, a world-class horndog and worshipper of all things Playboy is incredulous that Eugene could let such a hot property go unspoiled. In fact, the two of them travel to middle schools with one of those abstinence presentations that is supposed to scare younger kids into keeping it in their pants (but never does).

To Eugene’s surprise, Cindi herself is eager to lose her virginity and the two resolve to make it happen the night of the prom. The big night arrives and Eugene is understandably nervous. Things get worse when the rented limo shows up to pick him up and in it is a former classmate turned rapper who goes by the name of Horsedick.mpeg (Robinson) who is ALL about the sex – which makes Cindi’s parents nervous.

Eugene is still pretty tense by the time they get to the after-prom party where he and Cindi have planned to take the big step. Tucker, ever his best friend and ever an idiot, gives Eugene several shots to calm him down. Next thing you know, Eugene is going through the wrong door, tumbling down the stairs into the basement, and because in a movie like this that can never be enough, has a toolbox and a bookcase fall on top of his head. Next stop: coma.

Fast forward four years. Eugene is still in a coma and apparently not likely to get out of it. Tucker however has the perfect solution – he hits the prone, comatose Eugene in the face with a baseball bat. Someone call the Mayo Clinic – Eugene is awake hallelujah and a broken nose is a small price to pay. Of course his limbs have atrophied after four years of non-use but with plenty of physical therapy and hard work, he’ll be able to walk again someday.

Eugene is still trying to wrap his head around being asleep for four years but the biggest blow is that his beloved Cindi is now the Playmate of the Month (Miss March…catchy title) and faster than J. Geils can call his lawyer Tucker has Eugene out of the hospital and the two misfits are heading to California to get Eugene to the Playboy Mansion so he can re-unite with his girl…and maybe finish what they’ve started. They are being chased by Tucker’s vengeful girlfriend whom he stabbed in the face with a fork when she bit down on his manhood during an epileptic fit that occurred when Tucker turned on a strobe light while she was giving him a blow job. Trust me, it’s not nearly as funny as it sounds on paper.

Cregger and Moore, who co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in this thing, are both members of the New York-based sketch troupe “The Whitest Kids U Know” who have had a cable show that my son Jacob thinks is mildly funny. This movie doesn’t even rate that faint praise.

I like to think that I’m neither high-falutin’ nor prissy; I love a fart joke as much as the next guy, but only when they’re actually funny. I wish the movie could have been a lot better, but they went the lowbrow route every time, without exception. A little bit surreality might have done them some good, but nothing really worked here. There’s a running joke about firemen being essentially malevolent sociopaths as a group and in deft hands that might have been hysterical. It gets wasted here.

The characters are all, as a rule, unlikable and those that aren’t are blander than hell. The only one character that rises above is Hugh Hefner, who makes a brief cameo to explain the joys of true love. It had a certain sweetness that the rest of the movie lacked, but unfortunately it was too little, too late.

There might have been a good movie here but there is absolutely no subtlety present. As I said, I have no problem with crude humor but it needs that subtlety to balance itself out against. With no balance, the movie sinks like a bowling ball in an inflatable pool. And we, the audience, drown right along with it.

WHY RENT THIS: It’s the Playboy mansion…hello!

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Humor is dumb, sophomoric and quite frankly disappointing.

FAMILY VALUES: Lots of toilet humor, sexuality and sex jokes…definitely meant for more mature audiences.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Hefner was originally going to be played by actor Robert Wagner but when he saw a rough cut of the film, he was amused enough that he elected to play himself in the movie. As a result, all of Wagner’s footage was scrapped.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is an unrated version but it doesn’t really add very much.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: Appaloosa and further Florida Film Festival coverage with a mini-review of Leaves of Grass