A funny thing happened along the way in the translation of the fun, campy concept of Snakes on a Plane into a big-screen reality: the filmmakers forgot to make it fun and campy. What should’ve been something in the realm of Eight Legged Freaks turned out to be more like No Legged Bores.
Certainly, no one expects Citizen Kane from a movie like this, but the characters are embarrassing cardboard cutouts: the snooty old British guy, the self-obsessed black rapper and his sycophantic posse, the shallow, ditzy blonde with Chihuahua in tow, the gay (or not) male flight attendant who freely offers to suck out snake venom, the Asian martial artist, the oh-so-cute and innocent kids…and Samuel L. Jackson.
His role deserves its own essay — and luckily, I have one here — but suffice it to say, he’s officially become a caricature of himself. The much ballyhooed “I have had it with these MFing snakes on this MFing plane” line stands out like a sore thumb, hand and entire forearm as something tacked on just to maintain Jackson’s image as a shit-talkin’ badass. It’s not even appropriate to the situation at hand! When he says it, everyone around him is calm; he just yells it out of the blue like he’s got Tourette’s or something. I swear, if some people had their way, he’d SCREAM EVERY LINE IN EVERY MOVIE IN RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION! CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW ANNOYING THAT WOULD BE?!? YOU CAN?!?! ARE YOU SURE?!?!?!?!!?!? BECAUSE I CAN KEEP GOING!!!!!!!!!! MUTHAF**KA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jackson’s acting varies as wildly as his hairstyle; it seems to be that as the quality of the material goes, so do his acting chops. And Snakes on a Plane is one of his low points — this from a career that has included Formula 51 and The Man. His delivery here has all the naturalness of a pair of Playboy ta-tas, although to be fair, he had to utter lines like, when told that the snakes might be getting riled up by pheromones, “Well, that’s good news: snakes on crack!”
The film’s much publicized re-shoots were made under the impression that simply adding a some boobs, blood and “F” words would make it more acceptable to the core audience, but maybe they should’ve spent that time and effort on upgrading their SyFy-quality computer effects. What is this, Boa vs. Python vs. Cobra vs. Komodo vs. Shark? Where’s Casper Van Dien? Even with the attempts to make SoaP into a harder, scarier film, it still feels more like a disaster movie than a horror movie, and the tacked-on edits make it into a more serious film when campy fun should’ve been the name of the game. All of this, of course, doesn’t even begin to touch upon the gaping holes in logic in the story:
- The snakes get into every nook and cranny (and barf bag) on the plane, yet when it’s convenient to the plot, stacking up a pile of luggage keeps them at bay. Did the passengers, like, spackle the crevices in between the suitcases?
- So, you can sneak a big-ass crate full of snakes with a ticking timer that blows open the doors, but you couldn’t sneak on, I dunno, a bomb? Or maybe a crate full of ninjas?
- Our beloved hero Sam takes such great measures to protect the witnesses he’s assigned to guard, yet no one thinks to look after the lone pilot left alive.
To top it all off, the overly explanatory dialogue is more laughable than any of the attempts at comedy. Take this exchange, for instance, when the passengers are trying to figure out how to describe the snakes to the snake expert on the phone, only to devolve into a discussion on the wonders of modern technology:
Ditzy blonde girl suggests, “Why don’t we just take a picture?”
“Oh sure,” retorts snooty British guy. “Let’s drop it off at Jiffy Photo when we land, Einstein.”
“Ever heard of email, dickwad?” she shoots back , reminding us that we live in the 21st century.
“All we need is a digital camera and a computer,” ER stewardess adds for those in the audience over the age of 80.
“Or this,” says ditzy blonde girl, holding up a Blackberry-like device with product placement dexterity. “It’s got both!”
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“Fuck you, ambiguous darkness.” “Fuck you, ground.”