Sunday, August 20, 2006

SNAKES ON A PLANE - scary (B) movie; dismal comedy

SNAKES ON A PLANE was a cult hit even before it was made. Reports began to emerge that badass and Jedi, Samuel L. Jackson, had signed up to a new movie on the strength of its title alone. When the studio threatened to change the title to something less unintentionally hillarious - Pacific Air Flight 121 - Jackson freaked out. "We're totally changing that back. That's the only reason I took the job: I read the title." Soon there were websites documenting the progress of the movie and every new trailer would attract mass viewing. The producers even sanctioned the addition of footage that originated in internet parodies of the flick, including the seminal line from Jackson: "I want these motherfucking snakes off this motherfucking plane." Almost Swiftian in its rapier-like subtlety. However, in the cinema spots I began to detect a little nervousness on the part of the studio. The risk was always that SNAKES ON A PLANE just wouldn't be as funny as everyone expected it to be. The ads focused on telling us that this was meant to be a SCARY MOVIE. Laughs were an added bonus.

At any rate, with audiences built in from the internet-hype, SNAKES ON A PLANE wasn't paraded to the critics in advance. I went to the early morning screening on Friday in London and the theatre was packed with fans. The key question is: did they get what they came for? The movie has a plot thinner than Victoria Beckham. It's clearly just a coat hanger on which to place the "concept" of snakes being let loose on a commercial airplane. The idea is that a mean and nasty Asian gang-leader is trying to kill a man who is going to testify against him. That man is being transported back to LA on a commercial jet, escorted by two FBI agents, one of whom is Samuel L. Jackson. Now this Asian gangster doesn't do ordinary, so he puts a carton of dangerous snakes on the plane.

Thin plot aside, the cast is mostly unknown, with the exception of Jackson and Julianna Margulies - the chick from ER. It's fine that there are no big names as the acting required is definitely of the AIRPLANE or NAKED GUN school. We don't have characters as much as stereotypes - the obnoxious rapper hooking on to the fit blonde with the chihuaha in her handbag; the homophobic, misogynistic rapper entourage; the horny couple having sex in the bathroom; the two plucky kids travellong alone. Similarly, when the snakes break into the cabin, the action is very much played for laughs. The snake that attacks the copulating women fastens onto her nipple. The snake that comes up the toilet fastens onto the man's penis. It's THAT kind of movie.

I have to say that for my money, SNAKES ON A PLANE just wasn't that funny - either intentionally or unintentionally. Jackson doesn't get to unleash whoopass in as extreme a manner as I would have liked. But where the movie did succeed for me was a straightforward horror B-movie. In fact, I found SNAKES ON A PLANE more scary than any other horror movie I have seen all year. But then I find snakes super-scary. So maybe my opinion doesn't count.

SNAKES ON A PLANE is on release in Israel, Iceland, Thailand, the UK, the US and Venezuala. It opens in the Philippines, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore on August 24th and in Belgium and France on August 30th. SNAKES ON A PLANE opens in Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Finland on September 8th an din the Netherlands and Portugal on September 28th. It opens in Lithuania on October 20th. Estonia on October 27th and in Italy on November 24th.


  1. If you know what's good for you, you WILL NOT detract from Naked Gun or Airplane. They were genius.

    "Nice beaver"
    "Thanks, I just had it stuffed"

    "No, and don't call be Shirley"

    Those moments will live in history.

  2. Nikolai,

    excuse me Nikolai, but i speak Jive.

    It's obvious that yo mama did'nt raise no dummy.
    If Bina don't want da help she don't get da help,
    Jive ass turkey ain't got no brains anyhow !


  3. When you stop dissing Neil Young I'll stop dissing Naked Gun.

  4. I refuse to go watch this movie. with a name like that and a terrible trailer, there's no comedy in the world that can save it.