Directed by: David R. Ellis
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips
Rated: R for language, a scene of sexuality and drug use, and intense sequences of terror and violence.
Parental Notes: This is a fine movie for teens and mature preteens, provided they can handle aggressive snakes and people dying somewhat gruesomely from snakebite. It’s not a good movie for youngsters.
“Snakes on a Plane” is widely considered the most anticipated move of 2006. It started as a bad light horror movie but captured the attention of internet denizens with its cheesy title and its star: Samuel L. Jackson, a cult favorite. After months of fan hype, ranging from fan tshirts to fan videos, the film has been hyped almost beyond belief. Fortunately, it was being hyped as a laughably bad film, and it certainly does not disappoint. It provides just what you’re expecting: snakes on a plane and plenty of them.
The plot is ludicrous, of course, and revolves around a nasty crime boss trying to kill a potential witness against him by releasing hundreds of poisonous snakes on the airplane flying the witness from Hawaii to Los Angeles. The snakes, which would normally be pretty peaceful, are incited to violence by pheremones sprayed onto the leis the passengers are given as they board the plane. Once the plane reaches 20,000 feet, a timer is set off, opening the crate of snakes. Soon the snakes are slithering their way around the plane, wreaking havoc both by shorting out wiring in the plane itself and by getting into the passenger compartment and going after the people.
Our hero is FBI Agent Flynn (Jackson), and it’s his job “to handle life and death situations on a daily basis.” An airplane being overrun by snakes isn’t exactly a scenario the FBI envisioned, so he has to improvise, with the help of plucky flight attendant Claire (Julianna Margulies, “Slingshot”) and witness-to-be Sean (Nathan Phillips, “Wolf Creek”). He uses everything from a stun gun to a makeshift flamethrower to a crossbow to kill the snakes, and looks darn serious while doing it. Anybody who’s seen interviews with Jackson knows that he had a blast making the film and signed on because of the name alone. He may be a very talented actor, but he sure enjoys working on a stupid flick once in a while.
One thing that slightly dampened my enthusiasm is that “Snakes on a Plane” is, at its heart, a horror movie. I tend to prefer action flick B-movie hilarity like “National Treasure.” “Snakes on a Plane” was souped up in reshoots to get an R rating, and there’s plenty of standard horror movie fare: a gratuitous sex scene, improbable physical reactions to snake venom (who knew it could make your eyes boil out of your head?), and a fair amount of gruesome makeup for the dead as their bodies are distorted by the reaction to snakebites. Heck, the snakes aren’t responsible for all the onscreen death — there are several deaths by accidental impalement and early in the film a man is beaten to death with a baseball bat. However, since the film was initially aimed to get a PG-13 rating, most of the gore is short-lived on screen, so those who are looking for a splatterfest will be disappointed. Those who don’t like that sort of thing may find themselves watching parts of the movie from behind their hands.
“Snakes on a Plane” has all the makings of a cult favorite. Opening night was a circus, by all accounts. People dressed up, brought snakes (real and rubber), had puppets, and all the fannish mayhem you might expect. It was the top grossing film for the weekend, making over a million dollars on Thursday alone (at sneak previews and midnight showings). This is the perfect film to see late at night with a bunch of your friends. One thing to watch out for as time passes, though, is people watching the film in a serious frame of mind. My laughing friends and I were actually shushed and informed in shocked tones that “it’s not funny!” at a Saturday evening showing. Fortunately, the rest of the theater was just as cracked up as we were, and eventually the sourpusses started laughing at this utterly ludicrous film nearly as much as we did. It’s a good thing, too, because as a horror movie, it’s pretty much a failure. But as an object of mockery and a general spoof, it’s a lot of fun.