Saturday, August 19, 2006

Snakes on a Plane (2006, David R. Ellis)

One of the more overused clichés in filmdom is the way people justify their enjoyment of uninspired, unambitious product by stating, “it was good for what it was.” After all, how much of the idea of what a film is supposed to be is defined by (a) studio advertising, and (b) the expectations we have based on this advertising? That’s especially applicable to a phenomenon like SNAKES ON A PLANE, which based on its high-concept title and the Internet storm that has arisen around it has overshadowed the film itself. How could the movie itself possibly live up to the sheer idea of it? Setting aside the pop-culture tempest that has arisen, I found it fairly easy to enjoy more or less on its own terms, although if the movie hadn’t worked as well as it did I’m not sure my moviegoing experience would have been nearly so much fun. There’s something to be said for a movie like this- it’s empty calories to be sure, but it’s tasty and goes down easy. David R. Ellis has become one of Hollywood’s premier go-to guys for high concept B-movies (see also: CELLUAR), and he wisely concentrates on making SNAKES ON A PLANE trashy fun without resorting to camp or kitsch. Of course, with the wrong leading man this could have sunk like a stone, but Samuel L. Jackson is perfectly suited to the material, playing it straight-faced without shying away from the ridiculousness of the surroundings, as when he barrels through the plane, Taser-ing snakes left and right. And for the most part, his supporting cast follows his lead, although the scenes near the end featuring Kenan Thompson are too overtly comedic to fit easily with the rest of the film. Still, the movie is a lot of fun, and the fact that the audience was into it as much as I was- whooping it up at all the crowd-pleasing moments- made it all the more so. I know it’s been said before, but I can’t stress this enough- if you’re going to see SNAKES ON A PLANE, the bigger the crowd, the better.

Rating: **1/2.

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