A few months back I watched Slither, which was not a bad comedy/horror flick, but one thing that I didn’t really care for was its title — Slither. I thought that it should just be honest with itself like so many genre movies from the ’50s and ’60s, admit that it was really Brain Slugs From Outer Space, and that it was merely trying to psych-out the box office with its snappy title. I’ve watched scores of films whose titles were merely intended as an outline of the plot (Zombie, Seven Brothers vs. Dracula, The Evil Dead, etc.), but none were so honest and true to its name as SNAKES ON A PLANE.
Let’s begin with some sage advice. If you don’t know what you’re in for when you plunk down your hard-earned dough for this one, it might be time to take a moment to reevaluate your life. Really.
To be fair, I know how easy it is to discount something solely on the basis that everyone else in the universe seems to be buzzing about it. It’s that type of thinking that kept me from seeing Pulp Fiction during its theatrical run, and from listening to The Darkness for a year after they emerged — both of which I’m glad I finally let in. The only thing I can say to make amends for being a self-righteous hater in the past is this — don’t let the huge amount of hype surrounding this movie, Internet or otherwise, sour you on it. Seriously, I know! Who hasn’t heard about this film? We know all about the snakes, and the plane, and Samuel L. Jackson being fucking tired of said motherfucking snakes on said goddamn plane, but here’s something you might not know: It’s actually a really good action movie.
Why does Snakes on a Plane work? Samuel L. Jackson, of course. The same Samuel L. Jackson character that was honed in films like Deep Blue Sea, Shaft, S.W.A.T., and The Man. He appears so at home in this role that if it didn’t start out written for him, it was certainly re-written for him. And the way he straddles the line between action-horror and comedic farce makes for some seriously classic celluloid moments.
There’s no denying that SoaP is Jackson’s show, but the supporting cast does an excellent job of putting in some stand-out cliche performances. With Juliana Margulies (ER) as the retiring flight attendant…on her final flight naturally; David Koechner (Anchorman) as the sexist co-pilot; Rachel Blanchard (Road Trip) playing a Paris Hilton-esque blonde with a tiny dog; Flex Anderson (Um, Man in the Mirror) as a famous hip-hop artist with serious personal space issues; and Kenan Thompson (SNL) as the rap star’s best friend (think Turtle from HBO’s Entourage).
The plot is (very) simple. Asian mob boss Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) wants murder witness Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) dead. The FBI is flying Jones from Hawaii to Los Angeles so he can testify against Kim. So in lieu of shoe bombs, suicidal assassins, or binary liquid explosives, boss Kim chooses to fill the plane with dozens of deadly snakes of all shapes and sizes. In addition to that, upon boarding, all the passanger are given customary Hawaiian leis (flowered necklaces), that have been secretly sprayed with snake pheromones. These pheromones apparently act like snake-crack, and drive the sky-bound reptiles completely insane. Soon after take off, all hell breaks loose, and Agent Flynn (Jackson) springs into action to protect his witness, the remaining passengers and crew (word to the squeamish — no body part is off limits!), and to keep the goddamn plane in the air.
Thus begins the theme park ride cum movie in earnest.
SoaP does a decent job of paying respect to those infamous disaster flicks of the ’70s (Towering Inferno, Airport ’77, Poseidon Adventure, et al), and an even better job not falling into the trap of becoming a parody of itself. Some might attempt to dismiss it as a B-Movie with a budget, an Internet-fueled phenomenon, or a 90-minute reason to watch S.L.J. scream Motherfucker, but ultimately, I felt that it was a thrilling, action-packed, humorous film, which I had no problem enjoying.
Although, I must admit that there was a point about halfway through the film where Jackson halts in the middle of all the action to give one of his now patented “We all gotta keep our heads and work together…” speeches, and I couldn’t help but think that right then a huge shark was going to jump up from behind and swallow him whole.
I know, how silly of me. I’m mean seriously, Sharks on a Plane…now that’s just crazy…or genius!