"Snakes on a Plane" is all hiss and no bite

by JD Warnock on August 29, 2006

in Print Reviews

What in the hell happened with “Snakes on a Plane”? With one incredibly simple title phrase and some super-savvy advertising, all this movie had to do was make good on everyone’s ridiculously low expectations. Bring the snakes, the plane, and the funny (intentional or otherwise) and it could ascend to a seat at the big kid’s table of classic bad movies. Who knows how you blow an opportunity like this? I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but “Snakes on a Plane” fails because it didn’t go far enough to scare us, make us laugh, or entertain us.

I can’t help thinking how sweet this movie could have been with someone like Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man”) at the helm – bringing the ironic humor and horror of the “Evil Dead” films, as well as Raimi’s razor sharp cinema skills. Or what about a brilliant comedy mind like Dave Chappelle or even the blockbuster prince Micheal Bay, he would surely have known what to do with it. I know, it’s unlikely the script was worthy of this caliber of director or the paychecks that accompany them, but director David R. Ellis clearly wasn’t sure what kind of film he was making and decided – to the detriment of the audience – to hedge his bets.

The gloves should have been all the way off. No one is going to see a film called “Snakes on a Plane” hoping for Shakespeare. There is nothing stopping this film from going way over the top, pulling out every sight gag and playing with every stereotype in the book. And like “Talladega Nights,” this script could have been thrown out the window in favor of talented comedians improvising a much funnier movie and punching up the scary.

The second Sam Jackson signed on to the project giving it star-power and hype, the casting director should have hired the three funniest stand-up comedians in L.A. and turned them loose right along with the CGI snakes. The humor is so anemic, and instead of current and edgy, we get Keenan Thompson – who is, at best, a last round draft pick in the minor leagues.

The are no boundaries to be tender with, there is no expectation for realism. For crying out loud, the snakes are ridiculous colors that look more like the Little Miss section at Target than a reptile exhibit – no one cares that they look completely fake, we just want to be entertained and jump from our chairs a few times. There is absolutely no excuse for this movie to be boring, and yet much of the time it is.

“Snakes on a Plane” should have been “Porky’s,” “Scream,” and “Tremors” all rolled up into a 747 full of venomous, popcorn throwing frivolity. Seriously, at one point Jackson actually says “I’m am sick of these motherfucking snakes, on this motherfucking plane,” and then promptly shoots out windows to vacuum out the snakes – if the entire movie had that attitude it would have been a blast.

If you’re smiling going into “Snakes on a Plane,” odds are you’ll be smiling on the way out. However, it really is such a shame that this brilliantly bad idea wasn’t used to its fullest potential. Instead, “Snakes” is just all right, and the only thing that sticks in your memory is a collection of missed opportunities.

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