Snakes on a Plane

Can’t Live Up to It’s Name

There has apparently been quite a buzz about the movie with a cool name and ridiculous premise: Snakes on a Plane. It sounded like it could be a great cult flick, a wacky B-monster movie that could be a mindless good time. Unfortunately, the film has been released in August (red flag), stars Samuel L. Jackson (double red flag), and wasn’t screened for critics (triple red flag). While Snakes on a Plane could have been real dumb fun, it just ends up being real dumb. Still, I have to give the filmmakers props for getting such a ludicrous movie past New Line studio executives. Do you think they still have jobs?

Hawaiian surfer Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) has just witnessed a brutal murder at the hands of nasty gangster Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). After an attempt on his life, he is taken into custody by hard-bitten FBI agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson). Sean is to fly back to the mainland to testify, with Flynn as his escort. Meanwhile, Kim has devised a sinister plan: sneak a ton of poisonous snakes into the cargo hold, juice them up with pheromones, then release them with a timer. How will our heroes (as well as the other unlucky saps who happen to be on this flight) be able to survive the slithering onslaught?

Right off the top, the whole idea that you could sneak a gaggle of lethal snakes on an airliner in a post-9/11 world, is simply absurd. Not only that, but the snakes were apparently shipped from the mainland before they perform their nefarious attempt. Sure, they are undetectable by bomb-sniffing dogs (which we are shown), but why doesn’t anyone hear them slithering around? And why don’t the different varieties kill each other off? Snakes has a lot of these bizarre realities imposed on the viewer.

Then there are the snakes themselves. They are obviously CGI work, and not very convincing. Since we know they are not only fake, but not even there with the actors, there is no suspense. Not only that, but these are crazed-lunatic snakes that not only chase their victims, but bite them ferociously in the eye, neck, crotch, and other sensitive areas. I’ll admit to jumping at one ‘boo’ moment, but that’s it. The rest of the time I just snickered at the ridiculousness of it all.

The rest of the screenplay is just as silly. After we are introduced to the passengers Airport-style (we meet The Stewardess on Her Last Flight, The Newlyweds, The Famous Person, The Snob, The Rich Lady, etc.), here are some of the zingers director David R. Ellis (Cellular) expects us to swallow:

- Cell phones apparently work over the Pacific Ocean!
- Julianna Margulies (Ghost Ship) actually says, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but does anyone know how to fly a plane?”
- The guy who takes over flying only has video game experience, yet knows what the switches over his head are for.
- A jet airliner with hydraulic flaps can be moved by pulling back on the yoke with all your might!
- “Snake-Vision” (the snake’s POV seen through a blurry green filter)!
- Fatal bite victims rot within a matter of minutes.

And the list goes on. I felt bad for the poor actors who have to act like they’re being attacked, as they writhe around while the director must be shouting “The snakes are all over you! Their bite is so painful! React! React!”

Samuel L. Jackson (Freedomland) again plays a role he could do in his sleep. If this is the only thing he is ever going to do, will someone please pick some better movies for him? I actually like him as an actor, but am growing quite weary of his preference of doing the same thing every time.

The main problem with Snakes is that, while stupid, doesn’t cross over into camp where it belongs. If you’re going to do a movie like this, you have to go through the stratosphere. This movie doesn’t, and acts like it wants to contend with other plane-based thrillers like Red Eye and Flightplan. Big mistake.

Still, the flick does have a trashy, exploitation feel (partially due to the gratuitous nudity and gore) that Roger Corman would be proud of. In the end, however, Snakes on a Plane isn’t good enough to be good and not bad enough to be good. It’s just okay--yet another film with promise that ends up in the two star scrap heap. Gotta love that retro poster art, though!