Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It is as silly as it sounds like it is. (Oklahoma Gazette)

It is a solid “B” picture that would have found its home on the Sci Fi Channel if Samuel L. Jackson hadn’t fallen in love with the title. Oh, the title should be spoken with a pause after the first word, and then the last three added as an afterthought.

And yes, “Snakes . . . on a Plane” is, if you love this kind of silliness as much as you should, more fun than any of summer 2006’s over-produced and over-long blockbusters. Just don’t ask it to make sense.Director David R. Ellis (“Final Destination 2” “Cellular”) seems to be fashioning a career out of turning highly implausible material into amusing entertainments. If SoaP doesn’t earn him a place in the “B” Movie Hall of Fame, I’m turning in my membership card.

A surfer named Sean (Nathan Phillips) inadvertently witnesses a mob killing in Hawaii and is saved from getting killed himself by FBI agent Nelville Flynn (Jackson). Flynn has to take his witness to L.A. and the mob boss whose butt is about to go in the wringer decides to kill agent and witness while they’re in the air.

And yes, he attempts this by sneaking 300 venomous snakes onto the plane, in a container with a time lock on its door. When the reptiles are released, ending up even in an air-sick bag to spring out and latch onto some poor woman’s tongue, passengers and crew, led by feisty flight attendant Julianna Margulies, must band together and protect themselves from Many Pythons’ Flying Circus.

Is the motivation for this inanity set up for us? No. Would anyone do this when he could so much more easily plant a bomb on the plane? No. If he saw “Red Eye” last year, wouldn’t the killer know that he could put an assassin on the plane? Sure he would.

Look, I know that one of the mottoes of “B” filmmaking is “Don’t explain, just keep walking,” but I would have liked for this snake schtick to have been set up better. Maybe we could have been told that the killer loves gadgets and complicated death traps.But does any of it matter? No, not if you can suspend disbelief for 106 minutes. If you can’t, go watch another movie.

Jackson doesn’t bring anything to his role but an obvious desire to play it. The story is, if you want to believe it—I think it’s part of the hype—that a web fan suggested a particular line of dialogue for Jackson, one with a double use of a word which Jackson uses a lot. When the line was delivered on screen, my audience broke into cheers and applause. Not bad for, “That’s it. I want these muthafuckin’ snakes off this muthfuckin’ plane.”

The rest of the cast is suitably energetic and the CGI snakes would look real if they were displayed from angles that didn’t scream out that the shot was faked. That also takes something away from the film’s shock value, but I suspect that if the attacks looked uncomfortably real, no one would be able to stand it. As it is, some of the places people get bit will make you, well, squirm. SoaP is good old-fashioned ghastly, dirty, horror comics fun—low down high concept.

Fangs for everything, guys.But my guess now is that every rip off picture that tries to imitate it will bite.

Come on, you know you awaited the opening of this picture either smacking you lips in anticipation or lamenting the fall of western civilization. Sure, like “Oedipus Rex” is the model of dramatic good taste and restraint.


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