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Snakes on a Plane

Director: David Ellis
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Phillips, Byron Lawson, Julianna Margulies, Rachel Blanchard, Bobby Cannavale, Kenan Thompson

(New Line; US DVD: 2 Jan 2007)

There was plenty of commotion surrounding Snakes on a Plane during its theatrical release.  Not from all the preceding Internet hype, but from critics who feared the success of Snakes on a Plane would ruin the future of movies.  These critics feared Snakes on a Plane would only spin more B-tastic films, replacing the stunning works of brilliance we have now, such as Epic Movie or Stomp the Yard.


To judge a film such as this so harshly is quite laughable.  The problem with Snakes on a Plane‘s concerned critics is they don’t know seem to know the difference between good low brow and bad low brow entertainment.  The difference (and trust me, there’s a big difference) lies all within the intention.  Was Snakes on a Plane intended to be a good film?  Of course not!  It’s horrible!  But it’s brilliantly horrible. 


So despite its disappointing box office performance, Snakes on a Plane does live up to its promised hype of campiness and now, it finally made its way to DVD.  But that’s where it hits a snag.  Months before the movie was released, buzz spread across the Internet as bloggers and message board lurkers waited in anticipation.  They didn’t know much about the movie, but judging from the movie’s matter-of-fact title, they did know it involved snakes and a plane.  Even the biggest pop culture snob had to smile at its ridiculousness.  But now that all the hype has settled down and the fanatics that showed up on opening night with plastic snakes have disappeared back behind their computer monitors, what’s left seems but a rubber facsimile of the real thing. 


Not to come across like a high school drama teacher, but this movie lacks feeling.  It’s like drinking stale Coke or eating a cold pizza.  Sure you could eat a pizza cold, but that wasn’t the pizza maker’s intention.  And that brings us back to that word again: intention.  I don’t think Snakes on a Plane was intended to be viewed within our private walls.  After all, no one would spend a quiet evening watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


But not to give up all hope, there is somewhat of a movie in this DVD form.  Sean (Nathan Phillips) is a careless surfer who accidentally stumbles onto a murder.  When the killers come looking for him, FBI agent Neville (Samuel L. Jackson) saves him and tells Sean to come to Los Angeles with him to testify against the killer.  In an attempt to avoid jail time, the killer rigs the plane with a cage of poisonous snakes to wreak havoc on the plane.  Apparently, using something easy and logical like a bomb wasn’t his style.


There are other characters that surprisingly add a certain human element to the movie amid all the body counts.  There’s a Paris Hilton wannabe, a rap star and his two bodyguards, a might-be-gay flight attendant, and a sassy grandma.  Disgruntled flight attendant Claire (Julianna Margulies) is the most likable of the characters.  Despite the zany circumstances, her character is played with a splice of realism the others lack. 


But Snakes on a Plane  isn’t a movie about people; it’s about snakes, damn it.  The plot only gets in the way of more CGI snake-biting goodness.  Luckily there’s not much of a plot to stand in the way, but there was the occasional “sob” scene or “speech” scene that just wasn’t needed.  One thing that bothered me was how some of the campiness seemed to have been added later through editing.  There were so many other opportunities for the director and crew to give a subtle wink-wink-nudge-nudge about their big, terrible movie.  Instead, in some scenes, it appeared it was added later to please the ravenous bloggers.  It’s a scary thought to wonder what this movie would have been without those ridiculous scenes and it makes me quietly question the studio’s intention.


The DVD itself is packed with the standard goods, such as director commentary and special features.  The blooper wheel is incredibly enjoyable and makes me wish more of the cast’s hilarious ad libs made it into the movie.  The best part of the special features are the short “behind the scenes” documentaries that give a thorough glimpse into the special effects, making, and background of the movie.  There’s even a short documentary about the massive Internet publicity that shaped the film, including interviews with several of the bloggers who started the hype.


So maybe most of its fun has been left out in the sun to spoil, but not all is lost.  It’s a good party film, so the DVD won’t exactly be your next coaster.  It is somewhat strange to sit back and know you’re watching a film that requires no serious thought or analysis, though.  Not to say films like these are rare (quite the opposite), but the essence of the B-film is to laugh together.  We’re not laughing at them, we’re laughing with them.  Maybe those so called “good” films can learn from a bad film.

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A pop culture junkie and cyber geek, Tiffany enjoys searching for things that challenge today's societal norms. She's a semi-expert on Asian films, experimental music, and knows lots of pop culture trivia. She's previously written for The Daily O'Collegian, Preview Magazine CollegeRecruiter.com and runs CherryTankMachine.com.


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