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An enormous amount of buzz was generated for Snakes on a Plane on the Internet before it was released into theaters. Movie web sites' message forums were awash with people discussing the movie's title, plus speculation as to why Samuel L. Jackson enthusiastically signed on to play a part. The buzz was so great that Snakes on a Plane was predicted to rake in bazillions of dollars. While the movie fell short of this goal, many critics lauded it as a fun popcorn movie. Now those of us who missed it in the theaters can check out why Snakes on a Plane caused such a fuss with this new DVD release.
Free-wheeling young guy Sean (Nathan Phillips) stumbles on a murder being committed and barely escapes with his life. When the murderers track him down, he manages to escape again with the help of FBI agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson). Flynn and his partner explain to the terrified Sean that a well-known vicious gangster was behind the killing and the only way to keep the gangster from killing him would be to testify at his trial in Los Angeles. Nathan agrees, and since everybody is in Hawaii, the FBI agents pack their witness aboard a transatlantic flight. Unbeknownst to everyone aboard, the gangster manages to secrete a VERY large cache of riled-up snakes in the cargo hold. Mayhem ensues, and Agent Flynn must battle these snakes on his plane with help from the passengers and crew, including capable flight attendant Claire (Juliet Margulies).
I cannot recall ever seeing such a stupid movie executed so smartly. I'm serious: the people responsible for this movie actually took their high-concept idea (movie code phrase for "tiny plot") and made the best movie they could. Not once does it seem like they ever deluded themselves into thinking they were generating high art. For instance, they take minimum steps to get the plot ball rolling by getting Neville and Sean aboard the plane within the first ten minutes of film. We are introduced to the passengers and crew but other than a little exposition to give some of the characters a little substance we mostly get just enough information to make an educated guess at who will live or die.
Make no mistake, however: this movie is stupid. Samuel L. Jackson is always enjoyable to watch, and here he's in typical Bad-Ass Motherthumper mode. The rest of the acting ranges from okay to bad (pay attention to one poor fellow who, in the midst of his death-throes, continues to chew his gum). The plot is especially stupid as it's littered with plenty of holes and enough technical errors that both herpetologists and airplane pilots should avoid seeing it on moral principles. But like I said before: this movie was smartly executed. I had the feeling while watching it that the producers, writers, and director knew and planned the bad acting and plotting. They had more important things to do, like have people get bitten by snakes and die and get maimed in horrible and graphic ways. Also, while the acting might not produce any Academy Awards, the character interaction is fun. Like any good disaster movie, all the generic people are killed off pretty fast and the survivors alternatively work together and clash, and we get to cheer or boo at the subsequent deaths depending on how much we like or hate those characters.
New Line Home Entertainment made me happy with this DVD release. The transfer looks and sounds great and the disc is packed with all sorts of goodies. The obligatory commentary features director David R. Ellis, Samuel L. Jackson, associate producer Tawny Ellis, and several others. This ensemble commentary is the best extra feature and is as fun as the movie to listen to, and is full of interesting information on the technical details of the movie. Samuel Jackson enjoys himself when he talks, and confirms that he wanted to do the movie because he thought it was a nifty concept. The only actor in Hollywood who seems to be having more fun with his career than Mr. Jackson might be Jack Black (and that's debatable).
The gag reel is actually funny, the deleted scenes needed to be deleted (mostly character moments, wisely cut as they would have impeded the story's progress), and overall the extras confirm to me that everyone involved with this movie knew exactly what they were doing and enjoyed the heck out of it. Some of the extra stuff is padding but too much is always better than not enough (unless it's a really boring movie; then watching extras is like being keelhauled).
I wish I could remember the name of the comedian who once pointed out that going to Denny's and complaining about the food was like having sex with a hooker and then crying "I just didn't feel love!". If you watch a movie called Snakes on a Plane I certainly hope you aren't expecting an exemplary piece of art work. The movie has action, icky deaths, suspense, and especially important, it never gets boring. This might be the one time Hollywood can't be accused of false advertising. If you watch this, you will get plenty of snakes on a plane. Do you like your movies covered in a thick slice of cheese? Enjoy!
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