Snakes on a Plane. Snakes. On a plane. With Samuel L. Jackson. And he's pissed.
Really, what more can be said about David Ellis' intentionally silly, over-hyped joke-turned-viral sensation? The film is exactly as promised: Ahem, snakes on a plane.
Most of it is stupid, cheesy or ripped wholesale from other films. But did we expect anything more? If you're predisposed to seeing a film about legless deadly reptiles loose in a confined space thousands of feet in the air, you'll enjoy this romp. You'll certainly laugh ... everything sleazeball pilot David Koechner says is a scream ... and amuse yourself shrieking in feigned horror.
Much of Snakes is familiar, not just because it's been endlessly debated on (and even tweaked via) the Internet, but because it barely raises a finger to freshen up its action-and-disaster antecedents. Let's recap:
* Snakes sits somewhere between Airport '75 and Airplane, relying for added thrills on half-a-dozen standard air-disaster scenarios ("We've just lost avionics!"). It also loads Flight 121 with the requisite patchwork of passengers: a germophobic rapper (hit song: "Booty Went Thump"), kids traveling alone, a kickboxer, a mean guy, a horny couple and a Chihuahua.
* Picking out the deaths is a no-brainer. If somebody is described as "the toughest son of a bitch I ever met," there's a good chance he won't make it. Whiners also rarely fare well.
* If it's somebody's last day on the job, get off the plane! Retiring stewardess Claire (Julianna Margulies) hopes she gets "low-maintenance passengers."
* Airline security is a joke. The police dog checking the plane before take-off walks right by several dozen boxes of snakes placed there by a mobster. Onboard, there's glass bottles, aerosol cans, lighters, an ax and FBI personnel toting guns and Tasers. Admittedly all useful when a mess o' snakes get loose, but still.
* FBI agents look uptight, but under pressure exhibit lots of gallows humor. As hundreds of snakes slither amok, onboard G-man Flynn (Jackson) deadpans to headquarters: "You know all those security plans we ran? I'm smack in the middle of one we didn't plan for." Snap.
* Filmmakers can never go wrong putting 12-letter words in Jackson's mouth. His widely quoted last-straw exclamation ... "I've had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" ... was drowned out by wild opening-night audience cheering. Fortunately, we'd all downloaded this audio clip weeks ago.
Yet amid the same-old plot and gimmicks were scattered a few innovations:
* The revelation that, without warning, the FBI can commandeer the entire first-class section, such as when transporting a critical prosecution witness (Nathan Phillips).
*An argument for more onboard luggage: The more crap is in the overhead compartments, the higher you can build the snake barrier.
*An argument for easy access to the cargo hold: A passenger might have packed a harpoon.
* The SnakeCam, whose imagery suggests that, to a snake, the world is a distorted, green-lit mess. Apparently, not only can't snakes hear, they don't see so good, either. Yet despite their reduced vision, attacking snakes go first for the neck, eyes, mouth or genitals.
Snakes is designed for laughs, not scares. Its R rating covers vulgarity, a splash of comic gore and the aforementioned outburst from Jackson. It's doubtful that the onboard collection of real and CGI snakes will cause any anxiety. It is, however, not recommended that you bring your snake to see this film: Many snakes on board Flight 121 die horrible deaths.