Fox // 2010 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // April 21st, 2010
The tooth hurts.
Did you happen to see Judd Apatow's Funny People last year? Based on the disappointing Box-Office results, probably not. Funny People was a truly endearing comedy, following the most successful comic in the world as he received some hard life lessons. It's a great movie, you ought to go and rent it now. Don't worry, this review will be waiting for you when you're done. Seriously, go watch it. Okay, so by this point I'm going to assume you've seen Funny People (and if you haven't, didn't you hear me tell you to watch it!), in which case this seemingly ridiculous ramble might now be starting to make sense. The film being reviewed here is Tooth Fairy, not Funny People, yet the latter production actually has an unfortunate link with this one. In Funny People, the lead character happens to make a bunch of terrible looking kiddie flicks, making him a Hollywood star but stuffing all his artistic integrity down the crapper. Tooth Fairy is like the noxious family entertainment parodied in Apatow's film. It takes a few recognizable faces, a whole heap of schmaltz, a one-joke premise, and an ungodly amount of amateurish filmmaking to the cinematic game, resulting in an unfunny way to spend 101 minutes. This movie is so cheesy, it practically reeks of Stilton.
Derek Thompson (Dwayne Johnson, The Other Guys) is a hockey player with a fierce reputation on the rink. Once a skilled and attuned athlete, Thompson has now adopted the nickname "Tooth Fairy," as a result of his ability to beat the holy hell out of anyone on the ice. Due to his own underwhelming career, Derek has become a cynic, which one night nearly leads him to telling his girlfriend's (Ashley Judd, Bug) daughter that tooth fairies don't actually exist. As a result, Derek is recruited to Fairyland against his wishes, and is forced to serve as a tooth fairy for a fortnight in penance of his dream-killing attitude. Assigned a case worker called Tracy (Stephen Merchant, Extras) to help him on his way, Derek begins his punishment reluctantly, but soon comes to learn that dreams and hopes aren't always supposed to be dismissed. Yep, it's actually as uninspired as it sounds.
I have tried to retain a fondness for Dwayne Johnson over the years, but he's starting to make any sort of affection quite hard. He's not a great actor, but he is reasonably charming, has decent comic timing and a welcome willingness to endure slapstick ridicule. Along with Stephan Merchant, who hands in a good (but not great) performance, Johnson is probably the best thing about Tooth Fairy. This sort of film is beneath him, and whilst he's hardly going to be an Academy frontrunner of the future, he really ought to focus on making enjoyable popcorn entertainment and not this sort of awful tripe. His character is also a total jerk in Tooth Fairy, making him an unsympathetic hero along with the movie's other problems. Ashley Judd is brutally bad as his confused girlfriend (together, she and Johnson have some of the coldest and most contrived chemistry I've ever seen), whilst Billy Crystal (When Harry Met Sally) and Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) slum it for the money. Andrews in particular, playing the magisterial head of the fairies, is woeful, and sells all dignity down the road in a performance of extreme comic ineptitude. Adding insult to injury is a wooden acting debut from skateboarding wonder kid Ryan Sheckler (portraying a younger sporting rival for Johnson) and a wet performance as Judd's son courtesy of Chase Ellison (Mysterious Skin).
The screenplay pings about the same tiresome themes that most family comedies seem to these days. Our hero has to rekindle his passion for life, bond with his girlfriend's son, and get caught up in some weak slapstick shenanigans. The plotline is hugely predictable and actually introduces formulaic plot arcs without even offering a pay off. One scene set in a music shop is demonstrative of this; the filmmakers appear to try and give Chase Ellison's character both a pubescent love interest and a nemesis, and yet following this sequence the themes never resurface. Things like this are truly irksome, but not as fundamentally groan-inducing as the broad humour. Despite having had some five writers work on its script, Tooth Fairy hasn't got a credible comic beat in its body. The film uses cheap gags to try and fool the audience into thinking it has a funny bone, but shots of people falling over and digitally enhanced facial spasms aren't actually that amusing. The few laughs available come via Merchant and Johnson's natural abilities, and not anything that leaps of the page.
Obviously the movie powers toward a deliriously mawkish finale, with various unconvincingly shot hockey scenes thrown in for good measure. Director Michael Lembeck is a poor filmmaker, imbuing neither his fantasy world nor routine shot construction with any flair or professionalism. Considering the production's decent $48 million budget, Tooth Fairy is not a pretty looking film, lacking energy and visual audacity in equal measure. I'm not expecting Avatar, but it should look better than your average daytime TV production. Tooth Fairy is a sizable misfire, and an offensive black mark against the names of all involved.
The DVD supplied for review was a screener, so no comment can be passed on audio or video standards. The disc does, however, have some extra features to examine. A workout for kids called Tooth Fairy Training Center is the most prominent addition, and it might work for ADD riddled youngsters. More embarrassing is the self-explanatory Fairyoke, in which Merchant and Johnson power through a ballad together, leaving their dignity squarely behind them. Some trailers are also present, including the original theatrical trailer for Tooth Fairy. It's pretty unexciting stuff.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Tooth Fairy Training