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Snakes on a Plane /

Rated: R

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard, Flex Alexander

Directed by: David R. Ellis

Produced by: Craig Berenson, Don Granger, Gary Levinsohn

Written by: John Heffernan, Sebastian Gutierrez

Distributor: New Line Cinemas Releasing


     Snakes on a Plane is the cult-film-phenomenon that isn't. I'm writing this review three days after the release of its opening weekend box-office, a paltry tally of roughly $14 million. Admittedly, the figure was highly disappointing for distributor New Line Cinemas. The movie's advertising-campaign was everywhere up until the very day of the film's release, taking internet 'blogs, daytime talk-shows, and dozens of trailer-rings in thousands of multiplexes by storm. After gathering massive-buzz due to its cheesy concept--the title says it all--tracking reported that Snakes on a Plane was predicted to gross around $30 million dollars during opening weekend. Accordingly, it was booked to show in over 3,500 theatres. Despite its campy and outrageous premise, almost everyone expected the film to do far better than most August releases could ever dream of. Parties were arranged for opening-night and all of the web-geeks who had devoted four months of their life to pimping the now-famous Samuel L. Jackson-line "I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" rejoiced that they would finally be able to see the actor in action.

     And then, as a small but wise group had foreseen, no one but those internet-browsing twenty-somethings still living with their parents showed up to watch the movie. Snakes on a Plane can't exactly be called a bomb in terms of profit-margin--its budget was only $35 million--but it's certainly one of the largest big-studio-disappointments I have witnessed in the past five years. In retrospect, I suppose the average, middle-aged American citizen probably has no interest in watching an airplane worth of passengers hoard off exotic cobras, rattlesnakes, and pythons that have inhaled nerve-gas to provoke them to attack. But that's the brilliance of marketing; New Line made it seem as though just about everyone wanted to indulge in the 80's-cult-throwback pitch that the film seemed to be thriving on. In actuality, only the target-demographic of young males actually were, most of whom were restricted from admission due to its R-rating anyway. Snakes on a Plane probably would've done the exact same amount of business had it been released on half the screens and solely restricted its ad-campaign to the online-outlet that initially led to its creation. I suppose it was rather cocky of New Line to overestimate the appeal of their material, which had already proven limited by earlier this year's little-seen Slither, a similar adult-oriended horror-comedy.

     And this is all a shame too because, color me stunned, Snakes on a Plane offers one hell of a good time. I was fascinated by the niche-following that it acquired in the days leading up to its release, but never quite saw how director David R. Ellis (2004's Cellular) would be able to stretch its four-word premise into a full-length feature. In truth, the task proved seemingly easy for him; Ellis fills every frame with dazzling visuals, creepy suspense, and campy nostalgia. Snakes on a Plane pleasantly references everything from A Nightmare on Elm Street to Airplane to Gremlins and back, but updating the extent of its cheesiness to better please Twenty-First Century viewers. Featuring plenty of gore, nudity, and hilarious meshes of the two, it's the kind of flick that I wish I had been able to see at a Midnight Showing at a theatre next to a college-campus. The audience I sat with laughed and jumped at a lot of the material, but I couldn't help but want to get up and loudly cheer as the snakes' venom was unleashed and Jackson began to take his ass-kicking persona into overdrive.

     Perhaps Snakes on a Plane failed to live up to studio-expectations because of people's reaction to the fact that it basically delivers what it promised. It was wrong to expect, in the first place, that anyone but teenage-males--a demographic that I am, in this one case, actually happy to proclaim I belong to--would be excited by such a promise. Under the confines of the movie's premise, Ellis' direction offers a creepy, crawly, and humorous experience. There is a plane and there are a lot of poisonous snakes. There is a lot of running around, calling Mission-Control, creating effectively improbable and incoherent solutions to problems, and indulging in gratuitousness simply for the fact that gratuitousness can seem cool sometimes. What more could you come to expect of a movie called Snakes on a Plane? Given the fact that it's so goddamn fun to watch, I have no problem claiming that it's better crafted than several other equally-interesting films with more complex premises. When Jackson's tag-line finally comes around as composer Trevor Rabin's score reaches its crescendo and the climax nears, viewers will either be beaming ear-to-ear because of what they're witnessing or scowling at its ridiculous audacity. I was a member of the former group and, due to the immense pleasure I took in viewing the film, I have no problem giving with it a glowing review. Apparent limited-appeal notwithstanding, if you're open to its concept and are mildly intrigued by the overnight (if unsuccessful) ad-campaign it generated, you should be able to enjoy Snakes on a Planeís intentionally-campy antics just fine.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (8.23.2006)

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