There are two types of people in this world: people who think Snakes on a Plane will absolutely ROCK, and people who think Snakes on a Plane will absolutely SUCK. There's no middle ground here, and unless the first group is much much bigger than the last group, it could spell venomous doom for probably the first flick to achieve cult-like status before a single frame was shown in the theater. To add to the hype, they didn't even screen the flick for critics, which is usually the deathnail for 99% of the flicks that go that route. There's no doubt that this flick came up with an entirely original marketing strategy, but the flick is in the theater right now, so there's one question you're probably wondering: which type of person was I? Well, I was of the "absolutely ROCK" persuasion. Now that it's finally here, am I still of said persuasion? You bet your rattler I still am!
If the people who were of the other persuasion actually saw this flick, there will be plenty to supplant their arsenal of hatred. It's just a really damn silly flick, for one. It plays like a spoof at times, although what they're spoofing I'm not quite sure. They also throw some purposefully over-the-top characters at us, like Bruce James' homosexual-ish flight attendant Ken and Flex Alexander's skittish rapper Three G's. At times it feels like a weird mix of Executive Decision and Airplane!. Oh, not to mention those mothaf*%$in snakes on that mothaf*%$in plane.
So, what makes this flick work? For starters, you can easily tell that the sillyness was done on purpose. I've seen enough bad flicks in my day that are made to be serious, or at least taken seriously, and are done so badly that the opposite feelings ensue. You can tell from the tone of John Heffernan and
Sebastian Gutierrez script that it was purposefully overdone, and the marketing matches the tone wonderfully as well. It's almost funny that one of the best lines in the flick, "I'm sick of these motha..." yeah, that line, actually came from an online blogger who suggested the line, and it ended up in the flick and becoming a popular catch-phrase. How's that for interactivity, eh? While Heffernan and Guiterrez can't take credit for that great line, they can take credit for everything else: the original yet insanely far-fetched premise, some inventive sequences, an array of colorful characters and a plot that slithers its way nicely through the 105-minute runtime. The main weak point in the flick is their dialogue. Although I'm sure it was meant to be fairly bad, they almost did too good of a job in that department.
We get some solid performances from Samuel L. Jackson as FBI agent Nelville Flynn, Julianna Marguilies as a stewardess on her last flight Claire, Rachel Blanchard as a Reese Witherspoon/Elle Woods-ish Mercedes (with tiny dog in tow), Bobby Canavale as an FBI superior and the scene-stealing Kenan Thompson as one of Three G's bodyguards, Troy. I wasn't a real big fan of Nathan Phillips as Sean, an extreme-dude-turned-murder-witness, but it really doesn't matter that much since he isn't as big a part as you'd expect. Still, these fine performances aside, the real star of the flick is the guy in the funny chair.
Director David R. Ellis might not have an impressive pedigree as a director (See: Final Destination 2, Cellular), but this flick just seemed tailor-made for him. His extensive background as a stuntman and stunt coordinator before making the directing leap seemed to pay off nicely here. While there are no actual "fight" scenes here between homosapiens, Ellis gives us some amazingly inventive action sequence, mixing in the slow, stealthy initial attacks of the snakes, with the balls-out frenzy later marvelously well. Almost all the humor in this flick comes from Ellis' direction, in a great way, for the creative way he throws everything together. He uses some marvelous camerwork from Adam Greenberg and absolutely outstanding editing from Howard E. Smith, who might possibly be the only person that's recognized by the Academy for this flick. Ellis just has a really slick style, knowing when to push and when to pull back, and the result is a tremendously kinetic and entertaining ride of a movie.
This is probably a flick that terrorists will watch... while laughing hysterically and geting drunk to. The Department of Homeland Security won't be putting any alerts out to airports about mysterious cargos of snakes. But, the next time you fly, I wouldn't at all be surprised for someone to throw out a bunch of fake snakes, just so they can say that now-infamous line from this wonderful popcorn flick.