After perhaps one of the most high-profile Internet campaigns ever, “Snakes on a Plane” finally arrives in theaters - with middle-of-the-road results.
“Snakes” doesn't take itself too seriously, but it still isn't enough to overcome a film so campy it should have been sponsored by Cheez Whiz - but not as campy as it wants to be.
Samuel L. Jackson plays Nelville Flynn, an FBI agent assigned to protect a young man named Sean (Nathan Phillips), who is the key witness in the government's case against a ruthless mobster.
The pair end up on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles that turns deadly when the cargo includes a crate full of hundreds of snakes ready to bite anything that moves.
“Snakes” is at its best when the material is played for laughs. The other passengers on the flight could almost pass as the cast for “Airplane 3” - an eclectic group that includes a germophobic rapper, a Paris Hilton-type young woman and a co-pilot who comes awfully close to sexual harassment. When some of these characters begin to fall prey to the deadly snakes, it's kind of fun guessing who will go next.
The night vision-like snake cam used to show the attacks from the point of view of the snake gives the film several other unintentionally hysterical moments.
Jackson helps make the material easier to take, although he doesn't get that great “Deep Blue Sea” type monologue (he does get to revert to his “Pulp Fiction” days with the line of the movie, “I'm tired of these mother (expletive) snakes on this mother (expletive) plane.”).
“Saturday Night Live” alum Kenan Thompson has some funny scenes, but someone forgot to tell Julianna Margulies that she was in a movie called “Snakes on a Plane.”
It's a close call, but ultimately “Snakes” just wasn't quite fun enough. Maybe it was because of all the pre-release buzz, but I guess I expected a film that was laugh-out-loud funny because it was so bad. The fact is, the film isn't as bad as it wants to be, which isn't a good thing if you are going for that campy B horror movie feel.
You could do a lot worse than “Snakes on a Plane,” but this is clearly a film that proves to be all hype and no bite.
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is the Antonio Banderas vehicle “Take the Lead” (B-). It won't win any originality contests, but “Lead” manages to work, thanks to a solid cast and some nice work by director Liz Friedlander.
Inspired by true events, “Take the Lead” tells the story of Pierre Dulaine, a former professional dancer who volunteers to teach ballroom dancing to a group of students in detention at a New York public school.
At first, Dulaine and the students clash, but eventually Dulaine becomes a mentor to the kids, helping them to realize their potential.
Dianne Houston's screenplay is pretty straightforward, following a similar formula to recent films like “Save the Last Dance” or even “Coach Carter.”
What Houston's script lacks in originality, Friedlander makes up for with infectious camera work that plays to the director's background in music videos. The dance sequences and music montages are effective, thanks to Friedlander's keen eye for keeping the scene flowing.
The cast fares well, too.
Banderas is believable as Dulaine, getting more out of the character than the script actually gives him. Rob Brown and Yaya DaCosta get the most screen time among the students and deliver nice performances.
It helps to make “Take the Lead” better than it should have been. I'll admit the film probably won't matter come December, but as a mildly entertaining diversion, “Take the Lead” manages to deliver.
“Take the Lead” is rated PG-13 for thematic material, language and some violence and is available Tuesday on DVD.