I’ve always been an unabashed fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson a magnetic screen presence whose charm and charisma more than make up for his shortcomings as an actor. That said even I’m finding it harder to defend his choices of roles over the past few years including his most recent turn in the family comedy The Tooth Fairy. Striving to produce quality family-friendly entertainment is certainly a commendable goal Rock but could you do us a favor and throw in the occasional R-rated (or at least PG-13) action flick every once in a while? Please?
The plot of The Tooth Fairy is standard kids-movie stuff: Johnson plays a gruff self-centered minor-league hockey player who after crushing the dreams of a few wide-eyed youngsters is sentenced to two weeks of community service as a tooth fairy. Handed wings a magic wand invisibility spray and other standard fairy accoutrements he’s sent to various children’s houses where he must brave all matter of domestic hazards to fulfill his tooth fairy obligations.
The Rock is usually the best part of otherwise underwhelming movies like this but he actually stumbles out of the gate in The Tooth Fairy overdosing on cheese and ham in an awkward first act. What ultimately makes the movie work is British comic Stephen Merchant recognizable to some as the hapless agent of Ricky Gervais’ chronically underemployed actor in HBO’s Extras who plays The Rock’s beleaguered fairy case worker. With his thin frame and his subtle sharp wit he provides the perfect foil for The Rock’s oversized personality creating just enough of a comedic spark to make The Tooth Fairy a relatively enjoyable if altogether unspectacular experience for both the kids and their babysitters.
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.