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15 September, 2007

DVD Review: SNAKES ON A PLANES

THE MOVIE

I’ve learned to be suspicious of Hollywood hype. The more I’m told how great a movie will be, the less likely it will be that it is. A perfect case in point: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. After months of being told that it was the greatest Horror movie since Edison first threaded film onto a projector, I finally saw it… and realized that I could’ve shot a better film with a drunken chimpanzee as my D. P. Thus I had no burning desire to see the aptly-named SNAKES ON A PLANE when it hit theaters last August. Logic told me that any film subjected to the overwhelming flood of hype that it had received just had to be a Grade-A crapfest; the cinematic equivalent of Paris Hilton. Having just watched the DVD, I now believe that might be too kind a description, and offer my apologies to Ms. Hilton for the comparison.

I will say this for the film: You definitely get Truth-in-Advertising with the title. You’re promised SNAKES ON A PLANE, and by damn that’s what you get. I’d rather have a comprehensible plot, decent acting, and competent directing… but they didn’t promise that. At first glance, the idea is appealing… an airliner, thousands of miles from land, infested with venomous reptiles. Given a good, or even plausible, script, it could’ve been a decent movie. Even with this hodge-podge of jump cuts and shock scenes, a good cast might have made something watchable out of it. Instead, we’re just supposed to believe that, on short notice, a crate full of poisonous snakes, smuggled into Hawaii from California, is loaded onto an airliner… along with an explosive device to release them at the proper time. You can’t board an airplane with nail clippers anymore, and the last time I flew I nearly had to answer the question “boxers or briefs?” for the entire airport to see, but they were able to sneak what amounts to a snake-bomb onboard a plane at the last minute. If you’re capable of doing all that, then why bother with the snakes?

With a decent cast and strong direction, even this ludicrous concept might have worked… God knows I’ve seen worse. But not even Samuel L. Jackson and Juliana Margulies can save this stinkfest, and with direction this sure and competent, David R. Ellis must have been the skipper of the Titanic in a past life. Jackson, who can be a great actor when called upon, demonstrates that he’s also capable of sleepwalking through a film; a remarkable feat, considering he delivers every line at a full-volume shout. Margulies, whose descent into obscurity continues unchecked since her departure from ER, does nothing to halt that slide here, and there are no standouts among the rest of the easily-forgotten cast.

The only positives I can find in this movie are technical in nature. The use of live snakes for most of the shots is especially pleasing. Snakes are extremely hard to model convincingly in CGI, (remember ANACONDA?) and the live snakes impart a much-needed dose of reality to the film. They also provide the lion’s share of the acting talent present in the film. Another high point is the accuracy of the 747 flight deck and passenger cabin sets. Airliners are seldom as large as they are made to appear in the movies, and rarely do films accurately capture the look and feel of the flight deck (or cockpit…) on aircraft. The production design team did an excellent job on this one, capturing just how claustrophobic and small even the massive fuselage of a Boeing 747-400 can be.



THE DISC

New Line Home Entertainment may be the current equivalent of American International Pictures, but they do put out a nice DVD. The audio and video quality is good, though there was some minor pixilation on my disc. There are multiple sound and subtitle options, which is nice. Overall, it equates to a very nice frame… for a landscape of a garbage dump.



THE SPECIAL FEATURES

I’ve got to admit, this disc does come loaded with extras, some more entertaining than the movie itself. You have Deleted and Alternate scenes, though considering the scenes that made the cut I sure don’t want to see what didn’t. There are several Documentary featurettes, including SNAKES ON A BLOG, an examination of the internet phenomena that the film inspired. The best of these are a look at the snakes themselves, and how the handlers controlled the interaction between the human and animal actors.

Once again, though, you don’t buy a DVD for the extras, and no matter how good the special features are, they can’t make up for a movie as bad as this one.



IN CONCLUSION

Regular readers of CreatureScape know that I have nothing against bad movies… hell, I’ve turned my love of cheesy, crappy films into a writing career. All I ask, of any movie, is simply that it entertain me, and doesn’t insult my intelligence. SNAKES ON A PLANE fails both tests. I can’t even recommend this as a bargain rental. Remember people, I bought this DVD so that you won’t have to!

1 comment:

Mombie said...

Thanks for convincing me that seeing this was the RIGHT decision for me and my family. TOO many times I have watched a "recent" concoction from the annals of Hollyweird ONLY to beg for those TWO HOURS OF MY LIFE BACK!!!!!