8.20.2006

Snakes on a Plane

"Maybe you didn't hear me. I'll say it for the third motherfuckin time."

Well... it's over. The culmination of the most widespread, successful viral marketing campaign for a movie has come and gone, and Gouda must examine what is left in its wake: A film that challenges the very foundations of cheesiness, and forces us to wade through the thick jungle of impossible dialogue, predictable thriller archetypes, and tangles of snakes... on a plane.

Ordinarily I would have a lot of fun exploiting the weaknesses of any film. If something seems inherently wrong, my brain snags it like a fishing lure in a river of steelheads, so it is a rare movie that allows me to ignore the fallacies and go along for the ride. The difference between a bad movie that sucks and a bad movie that is sorta enjoyable is the lengths to which its makers are willing to go to make us believe they are totally in on the joke. The former focuses too hard on trying to make us go along with the ridiculous, and it is only when we realize that they are leading us into the realm of "This is serious! Don't laugh!" that we sneer and start kicking the crap out of the movie.

The title Snakes on a Plane serves to provide the viewer with lowered expectations, and the movie Snakes on a Plane doesn't disappoint in that arena. We know that it's campy. We know it's over the top. And we know that Samuel L. Jackson, with a filmography that spans both extremes of the quality spectrum, was the perfect actor (aside from maybe Bruce Willis) to save the day because he's not above laughing at himself.

Jackson plays FBI agent Neville Flynn who is escorting from Honolulu to Los Angeles an important witness to the prosecution of a dangerious Asian mafia figure, Eddie Kim. Kim has methods of dispatching witnesses against him that involve all manner of torture and murder that you would only find in movies similar to this. Determined to not let this latest incriminating individual escape his wrath, he arranges to have the cargo hold of a jumbo jet loaded with a variety of poisonous snakes (I know, I know- don't bother asking). Then, a giant box of flowery leis that are to be handed out to departing passengers is sprayed with a pheromone designed to provide the reptiles with an appetite for killing people in ways more involved than a mere bite. They also appear to have enhanced vision, intelligence, and creepy quasi-human expressions on their faces- but again, nevermind.

What occurs from this point is a "Most Creative Ways Snakes Can Kill People" contest. There are several candidates for winners, but I'm going to go for the obvious one: The Cobra vs Trouser Snake Battle Royale. There is also the "Most Creative Way to Kill a Snake" competition. No thriller would be complete without the "Annoying Character Who Most Refuses to Die" Award, and Snakes didn't hold back on giving us the perfect candidate.

So now we know the outlandish plot. Does Snakes on a Plane deliver? I'll give that a firm "mostly". The film could have actually had a little more bite, so to speak, by having Sam Jackson in more scenes and perhaps giving him more outlandish weapons. I was surprised by how little we actually see him in the earlier parts of the film. This is likely because the original footage was added to when it became apparent that it was going to be a bit of a hit. As a result, SoaP is a little inconsistent on the thrills, and the plot device of "snakes vs hapless passengers" starts to wear a little thin about two-thirds of the way through. By the time the obligatory "mother--- snakes" line was uttered, it felt more than a little overdue.

In the end, the film got away with what it was supposed to- delivering two light hours of campiness that paid off only as much as we could have expected out of a movie entitled Snakes on a Plane. I laughed, I squirmed a little bit, and walked out of the theater continuing to be convinced that humans are usually better at weaving legends out of air (or on the internet) than hammering them into reality.

Final Grade: B-

3 comments:

  1. Wanna know something awesome? This movie had a song contest on Myspace and another similar website. The contest had bands submitting songs to the movie. Whoever won got to have their song on the soundtrack, not to mention any other number of prizes/accolades. Well, a few months ago, we had a band called Captain Ahab play at our place. They ended up staying at my house and we hung out all night. They told me that they had entered the contest as a larf, as they knew someone involved, somehow (they're from L.A.- whaddya know?). They played the song for me, and we laughed and laughed, together, because it was funny as fuck. The song was called 'Snakes on the Brain.' Guess what. They won the contest. If that's not a testament to what you just wrote, nothing is. myspace.com/captainahab. My rich as fuck friends. Listen to the song.

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  2. I'm glad it got a B-. To be honest, the movie had me with its title. It could be the worst movie ever, and I'd still find "Snakes on a Plane" funny. I appreciate the truth in advertising. And thank you for the review.

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  3. I certainly could have used more Sam Jackson too, but overall I still had a blast at "SoaP" .. I just thought it was the perfect piece of summer fluff .. It had a fairly disastruous first week at the box office, so I guess a lot of people disagree with me

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