Snakes On A Plane (2006)

(At the Gruman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, August 2006) The best news about this film are that it delivers exactly what you’d expect from the titles. There are snakes, there is a plane and the snakes are on that plane. Genius. But beyond the best pop movie title since Dude, Where’s My Car?, there’s actually a decent B-grade monster movie in here. Thriller fans will fondly recall director David Ellis’ previous Cellular and rejoice during the film’s first few minutes as the plot is set up with a ruthless efficiency just so we can get to the creature feature. At least the payoff is fabulous: When the snakes start attacking, the film goes crazy for a few moments and truly earns its title. Samuel L. Jackson plays a caricature of his own film personae with relish and the other actors wisely stay out of his way. Alas, Snakes On A Plane stumbles with a sad attempt at a third act, which is almost a preordained problem given how the entire “snakes on a plane” conceit can only be milked for so many victims. The third act is weak, resorting back to cliché with some typical winking but few surprises left in store. Don’t fool yourself: this isn’t some minor classic nor even a particularly noteworthy thriller. But for a one-joke film, it’s a good joke and the storyteller has some talent. Ideal for a B-movie marathon. Just don’t bring expectations.

(Second viewing, On DVD, June 2007) Yes, the joke is old and tired. But it has, at least, sprung for a decently entertaining B-grade movie, and justified a fully-loaded DVD edition that fully acknowledges the silliness of the premise. Far from the hype, Snakes On A Plane still succeeds at entertaining its audience, and even the dumbest plot twists are acknowledged with a wink. Goofy fun, perfect for an unpretentious evening. The DVD comes complete with an above-average number of special features, the best of which has to be a lively commentary in which Samuel L. Jackson truly earns his salary as an enthusiastic cheerleader for the project. Other extras will answer every single question you may have entertained about making a movie with snakes, and give a glimpse into the Internet fan phenomenon that Snakes On A Plane sustained up to the moment of its release. Me? I still like it.

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