New Line // 2006 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 22nd, 2009
Sit, back, relax, and enjoy the fright.
The sensation that never quite lived up to its advance buzz gets the high-def gloss...and the snakes still look fake.
Special Agent Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction) is tasked with protecting a state's witness from an inevitable attempt on his life before he has to testify. As they fly to their destination, Flynn is fairly confident in the success of his mission. And then a s -- -load of snakes drop out of the overhead compartments and start biting passengers in the face and nipple.
The responsibility of saving the plane falls to Flynn, a resourceful flight attendant (Julianna Margulies, E.R.), his stun gun, and an unflinching use of the F-word.
We are all familiar with the bizarre story of Snakes on a Plane. The Web was atwitter with rumors about Samuel L. Jackson starring in an actual movie with that title, about actual snakes on an actual plane. The hype grew white hot with stories of R-rated re-shoots, the cooling of the buzz machine, and the film's actual anticlimactic arrival which didn't do nearly the bank the suits were expecting.
Early on, I was one of those enamored by the idea of the movie, enjoying a good chuckle watching fanboys go overboard with their adulation. And like most everyone else, I left the theater fairly unmoved by the final product.
Look, Snakes on a Plane delivers what it promised -- there were snakes, a plane, lots of hissing and biting, and Samuel L. Jackson shouting. But, in the end, there was simply nothing director David R. Ellis could have done that wouldn't have fallen short of the mega-hype.
Which is kind of a shame, because Snakes on a Plane really isn't a bad little B-movie. The idea of a gangster trying to kill a witness by unleashing an army of pheromone-raging killer snakes is a premise that holds plenty of opportunities for a director to exploit for R-rated mayhem, and Ellis delivers. Snakes spit, bite, squeeze, and attach themselves to genitals, breasts, and eyeballs; eat small dogs; pop out of toilets, blouses, instrument panels, and vomit bags; and generally slither all over the place freaking people out. If there's a way for a snake to kill a person, Ellis and company have thrown it on screen.
While the snake action is sufficient (despite the iffiness of the computer generated reptiles), the rest of the film suffers, ultimately killing the Internet sensation's chance of cleaning up at the box office. I liked Jackson and the dynamic his character shared with the witness kid. Besides that, no one else stands out. Kenan Thompson? No thanks. Margulies? Boring. That FBI agent on the ground is okay, but the snake expert is a pain in the balls. And then you have the words emanating from their mouths: flat and lacking the kind of self-referential humor a movie like this needs to fill seats. Some of the action gags are played for laughs -- the toilet snake for example -- but overall Snakes on Plane plays it straight. This approach serves well, if it were just another B-movie not weighed down by the crushing hype, but this was supposed to be so much more. And no, the PlayStation flight simuator gag does not count.
The Blu-ray is worth checking out. The upgraded 2.40:1 widescreen transfer offers discernible improvements to the visual fidelity, bringing forward stronger colors and resolution. The big losers are the CGI snakes, which -- in their new high-def habitat -- look even less convincing. The TrueHD 5.1 mix is an aggressive audio treatment that blasts out the chaos clean and clear. Extras: cast and commentary, bloopers, deleted scenes, the Cobra Starship music video, featurettes on the making-of and the Internet buzz, segments on the visual effects and the snakes species, and promo spots.
Snakes on a Plane was a victim of its own out-of-control anticipation. It's still a serviceable thriller, just not the epiphany we were all expecting. The Blu-ray is the definitive version of the film.
Not Guilty, but it could have been a whole lot not-guiltier.
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Video