Snakes on a Plane
Once in a great while along comes a film that is the next big “cult classic”. Snakes on a Plane is that film for this generation. But it has defied all logic of the cult classic. It had a strong following before it was even released. Scratch that – before it was even done filming.
A year ago fans caught wind of a new film with the simple and obvious title Snakes on a Plane, or SoaP as it became affectionately known as, and latched onto it to create the biggest internet sensation since 1999’s Blair Witch Project.
SoaP is about just that- snakes on a plane. FBI Agent Nelville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) has been assigned to escort surfer Sean Jones (Wolf Creek’s Nathan Phillips) from Honolulu to Los Angeles after Jones witnessed crime boss Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) murder a district attorney. In order to keep Jones from testifying, Kim orders the release of several crates full of the most poisonous snakes from around the world on Pacific Air flight 121. Agent Flynn has to keep the passengers and crew, and particularly Jones, safe from the deadly reptiles at 30,000 feet above the ocean.
Critics and non-Soapaphiles were quick to push this into the “so-bad-it’s-good” category, but I doubt their commitment to the sheer enjoyment of this film. Because that’s where it succeeds. SoaP is an unpretentious action thriller that delivers on all counts. It’s a pulse pounding thriller that keeps you guessing as to who will live and who will die (though the archetypal minor characters are there to provide us with good death scenes). The action is never over the top and always exciting. And the comedy is never displaced. It’s always funny when it intends to be, and serious when it needs to be.
One would want to question what A-list actor Jackson is doing in a presumably B-list film littered with B and C-list actors (David Koechner and Kenan Thompson of “SNL” and “ER’s” Julianna Margulies are the next most recognizable people). But Jackson is always the consummate actor, never turning down a role because work is work no matter how prestigious the gig. As an added bonus it shows he has a sense of humor. In a recent interview on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” he claimed he signed on to star after only seeing the film’s title in a trade magazine, having never seen a script.
I found no real flaws in the acting. Nothing award worthy or having a significant impact on the craft of acting, but nothing inherently wrong with it. Everyone was in top form.
Let’s give credit where credit is due- director David R. Ellis (Cellular and Final Destination 2) and screen writers John Heffernan (debut) and Sebastian Gutierrez (Gothika). As many view this film as a bad film that screams cheesy, it could have easily been handled as such. The film could have elicited more groans of annoyance than cheers of excitement. But it wasn’t. It was taken seriously enough to not take itself too seriously, and keep it tight and cheese free.
The unambiguous-ness worked in its favor as well. Last year was littered with metaphoric titles that had to be deciphered in order to understand the movie, or they had little to actually do with the main plot. But when you walk into a movie called Snakes on a Plane, you know exactly what you’re getting.
I can’t imagine a time when I had that much fun sitting in a movie theatre watching a film. There was an excited energy in the air as the crowed awaited the now iconic line- “I’ve had it with these mutha-******’ snakes on this mutha-******’ plane!” and proceeded to shout along with the screen. Part of the enjoyment of the film comes from that very collective experience, but the quality of the film is separate from the viewing experience.
Frat Pack freshman Justin Long has elevated to his own starring vehicle with the college comedy Accepted, but while his comedic skills are finely honed, anchoring his own film is something he’s just not ready for.
Having been rejected from every college he applied to and getting the “we’re very disappointed in you” lecture from his parents, Bartleby Gaines (Long) decides to placate the parental units by creating his own college, going so far as to forge an acceptance letter, create a fake (though unfortunately functional website), using his tuition money to rent an abandoned facility to make his own college, South Harmon Institute of Technology (think about the acronym it creates) and even hiring wayward former professor Ben Lewis (Lewis Black) as the dean of the fake school. It all starts to unravel when other recent high school graduates show up to S.H.I.T. after receiving acceptance letters from the website. Gaines has to keep up the appearance of a functional school so uses the tuition money from the incoming freshman to actually turn the building into a “do it yourself” type of institute of higher learning.
The usual college comedy stereotypes exist in the world of Accepted. Frat boys are cocky, preppy jerks. The dean is an uptight, greedy man with an inferiority complex. And the hot chick will learn the error of her ways and go with the nerdy guy. And they aren’t even done well. It’s carbon copy of the films that lay the ground before it. I like to think of it as a diet Animal House or a low-carb Revenge of the Nerds.
Where the movie really fails is that it puts on the façade of a complex film with a deep message, but it’s really just a simple, shallow film.