Maybe you’re concerned Snakes on a Plane isn’t going to live up to the hype. Stop worrying. Those fanatic Internet bloggers who’ve been raving about the movie just from the snippets they’ve seen pegged the movie to a tee. SoaP is everything its cracked up to be and more a monster movie and disaster flick rolled into one. Granted the plot is wafer thin: FBI Agent Neville Flynn (Jackson) has to transport a key witness Sean (Nathan Phillips) from Hawaii to L.A. so he can testify against a nasty mob boss who in turn hatches such a diabolical plan to dispose of the witness that even James Bond would be impressed. That’s right. Said nasty mob boss arranges the release of several varieties of poisonous snakes on the flight so either a) Sean will get bitten and die and/or b) the plane crashes. End of story. How can you go wrong with that? Jackson is one smart cookie. He heard the title of this movie and said yes immediately--despite the objections of his agents--recognizing the brilliance of a title so obvious it's foolproof. “My agents have finally figured out that I’m going to do what I want ” the actor told Entertainment Weekly. “Every now and then I want to do a movie that isn’t ‘stretching my abilities.’ It’s that simple.” All we have to do to be satisfied is watch Jackson scream a few cuss words lay down the law with the freaked passengers say lines like “Well that’s good news. Snakes on crack ” and kick some serious serpent booty. There’s a bunch of unknown actors also onboard to serve mostly as snake food but a few do survive including former ER nurse Julianna Margulies who does a nice turn as the head flight attendant sparring with the snakes and getting a little cozy with Jackson. In the words of Indiana Jones “Snakes. Why does it have to be snakes?” There’s a distinct phobia in the air whenever you mention those particular reptiles so that’s why the “monster” part of SoaP is even more horrifying--and changing the rating from PG-13 to R makes a world of difference. I mean um OUCH. That’s basically what I was mumbling through the harrowing parts watching through splayed fingers. Director David R. Ellis even goes as far as to give you a snake’s perspective as it zeroes in on its next victim. Shiver. Yes the premise is ridiculous. Yes you have to sit through some silly exposition before the snakes show up and will be able to pick out the ones who’ll make it through till the end. But honestly if you love a good disaster-y thrill ride and don’t mind snakes SoaP is the last summer movie you should see.
August 24, 2003 10:53am EST
Here are the awful facts: Ashton Kutcher plays Tom Stanisfield an apprehensive executive at a large publishing firm called Midnight Owl run by a ruthless megalomaniac who fires staff members for brewing a too-bitter batch of java. One day the boss's attractive daughter Lisa (Tara Reid) asks Tom to come over and babysit her father's pet owl so she can go to a party and he agrees misunderstanding that he has made a date with her. Poor Tom realizes the mix-up once he arrives at the mansion and is given instructions on how to care for the owl O.J. (named after the football player). He decides to go through with it anyway; after all a little butt kissing never hurt anyone right? Things quickly take a turn for the worse as one unwelcome visitor after another struts through the house: a drug dealer after the boss's son Red (Andy Richter) a neighbor with a gushing head wound from an accident (Ever Carradine) a former employer wanting her job back (Molly Shannon) to name a few. Oh and O.J. gets loose. The uninvited guests subsequently spend the entire movie crashing through tables and breaking antiques as they try to get the owl back while wimpy Tom stands at the center of it all pleading for everyone to "please leave."
My Boss's Daughter wrapped in June 2001 and for obvious reasons sat on a shelf for some time collecting dust over at Miramax. Perhaps the studio thought this would be a good time to capitalize on the popularity of Kutcher who is having a great year with his two series Fox's That '70s Show and the MTV prankster series Punk'd not to mention the commercial success of his last feature Just Married. What is so genuinely funny about Kutcher is that he delivers the stupidest lines with such earnestness that he is simply funny because he tries not to be. Here Kutcher outshines the material; his timing and delivery are on but the jokes just lack impact. It's sad to see such a truly funny actor stuck in such a truly bad movie. His co-star Reid looking a little over-baked is also a victim of this bad material. Remember her back when she impressed moviegoers with her performance as Bunny in the Coen brothers' 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski? While the actress has since shined in supporting roles that have overtly capitalized on her sexuality including Cruel Intentions and American Pie My Boss's Daughter is not clever enough to do that. Her character Lisa is supposedly a sharp businesswoman by day but by night she jumps up and down on her four-post bed while listening to the radio. Not even the talented supporting cast which includes Richter and Shannon draw laughs in this calamity of a movie.
With his younger brother Jerry and high school pal Jim Abrahams director David Zucker is responsible for helming a series of hilarious movies including the comedy Ruthless People and the spoofs Top Secret! and Airplane!. In 1988 Zucker helmed his first solo project The Naked Gun - From the Files of Police Squad! and its sequel but the quality of his material since has waned. His 1998 effort Baseketball was infantile and badly executed but My Boss's Daughter is just walk-out headache-inducing bad. The jokes are so lame that moviegoers will know the outcome before they even happen. Does scribe David Dorfman who penned the box office topper Anger Management expect the audience to laugh at the series of hackneyed sight gags like a mouse running up Tom's pant leg? And Zucker's trademark urination jokes only doom this comedy further. In one scene for example an intruder asserts his vigor by pissing all over the living room. Unless you are a three-year-old wrestling with the pressures of potty training how is that funny? There is also a weird and pointless running gag about characters saying benign things that then get misconstrued as racially biased. Let's just hope Zucker has better tricks up his sleeve for his upcoming spoof Scary Movie 3.
In those rare incidences a sequel can actually be better than the original. Such is the case with X2: X-Men United where this time around the X-Men--including mind-benders Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen); optically enhanced Scott/Cyclops (James Marsden); weather controller Storm (Halle Berry); Rogue (Anna Paquin) aptly named newcomers Bobby/Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and John/Pyro (Aaron Stanford); and last but not least the hunky yet steely Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)--have their work cut out for them trying to keep the peace between the human and mutant races. After a teleporting mutant assailant known as Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) attacks the White House relations between mutants and humans take a turn for the worse starting an anti-mutant movement. The movement is fueled by baddie scientist William Stryker (Brian Cox) who bears a grudge against mutants and his henchwoman Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) both of whom have a mysterious connection to Wolverine's past. They seek to wipe out all the mutants on Earth by manipulating Xavier and his all-powerful machine Cerebro--a machine that can locate and even destroy every mutant and/or human on the planet in mere moments using mind power. Stryker is in for a fight though. Militant mutants the iron-clad Magneto (Ian McKellen) and morph-happy Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) join forces with the X-Men to stop this madman--but of course they have their own agendas. Can the X-Men repair the rift in mutant/human co-existence? Or is war imminent? Guess we'll have to wait until X3.
X2 does a nice job giving its comic book heroes and villains more of an emotional core than in the first X-Men. The relationships have deepened and are further explored with Jackman's haunted Logan/Wolverine looking for clues to his past still a standout. Janssen another standout gets more to chew on as Jean whose triangle with Logan and Scott grows more complicated and her character arc takes a surprising turn. But will somebody please write Halle Berry out of this franchise? They say her blonde wig was improved for the sequel but it's as unbelievable as her acting. As for the kids Paquin and Ashmore sweetly play out Rogue and Bobby's budding love story but its Stanford's sullen John who holds the most interest as you see his resentment toward humans growing and luring him to the dark side. In the villains' corner Cox plays Stryker as stonily evil as he can while Romijn-Stamos seems to have a lot more fun as the ultra-cool Mystique even getting to shed the blue paint in one scene and simply use her feminine wiles to get what she wants. Cumming too seems to enjoy being blue as the bible quoting German-accented Nightcrawler who really isn't so bad after all (and has one of the snazzier entrances in the movie). But the most compelling relationship by far has to be between Xavier and Magneto. British thesps Stewart and McKellen portray the two as the old friends they are but whose disparaging views on how mutants and humans should interact has torn them apart giving the film some dramatic weight.
With the original X-Men director Bryan Singer had the dubious task of introducing all of the Marvel comic book's attributes and characters in a way that would appease rabid fans and newbies while also creating a compelling movie with a beginning middle and end. The result was adequate but a tad muddled and cartoonish. With X2 however Singer is able to fine-tune those characters and delve further into the story's universal theme: ridding the world of xenophobia and creating a peaceful co-existence. The three-tiered points of view--from Magneto's defiantly anti-human stance to Stryker's anti-mutant attempts at genocide and Xavier's hopes to find a happy middle ground--parallels today's political climate and actually makes you ponder the world's affairs even while you are watching the very cool very mutant-esque action. X2 leaves you wanting more to find out what is going to happen next to these people. Honestly if there is a war between mutants and humans who do you think is going to win? If only I could use powers of telepathy…