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08/29/2006 - SNAKES ON A PLANE


SNAKES ON A PLANE is something new in show business - a movie made in collaboration with its audience. When the producers of SNAKES ON A PLANE wanted to change the title to something more generic, a legion of bloggers in the film's target demographic (18-25 year-olds) created such a stink (with the help of star Samuel L. Jackson himself) that the producers backed down. When those very same producers wanted to keep the sex and violence to a minimum to get a PG-13 rating, those very same bloggers instead pressured them into upping the sex and violence quotient so much the picture received an R-rating. So now that SNAKES ON A PLANE has finally been released to theatres, what kind of movie has this unusual collaboration wrought? A surprisingly good one, so much so I'm thinking maybe audiences should start producing their own movies and leave Hollywood out of the loop altogether.

Okay, maybe I'm getting caught up in the hype a little bit too much here. After all, there are some things about SNAKES ON A PLANE, written by John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez, that are pretty lame. To call the characters stereotypes is charitable: the tough-as-nails cop, the spoiled rich girl, the snooty Englishman are as tired and formulaic as you can get. And the dialogue ranges from utterly cliched ("I need you to be strong"; Question: "What are you gonna do?" Response: "My job") to completely incomprehensible ("Time is tissue"...Huh?). The computer-animation is often cheesy, especially when it comes to the snakes, and Samuel L. Jackson seems to scream his lines at the top of his lungs in that inimitable Samuel L. Jackson-way no matter what the situation is (snakes attacking, he screams; passengers rioting, he screams; ordering a diet soft drink, he screams).

But SNAKES ON A PLANE is somehow a lot of fun anyway. The genius lies in the concept itself: a mob boss wants to eliminate a witness about to testify against him, so while the witness flies from Hawaii to L.A. for the trial, the mob boss arranges for a box full of poisonous snakes to spring open mid-way across the Pacific and bite, chew, suck and even swallow everyone on board, including the dreaded witness, to death. Looking at it intellectually, this is a completely ridiculous plan, but on an emotional level, the level at which most movies truly affect an audience, it works brilliantly. That's because SNAKES ON A PLANE cleverly combines the two things just about every human being on the planet is afraid of at one time or another: snakes and flying. Once the snakes are unleashed about a half-hour into the movie, the merging of these two primal fears keeps us riveted with suspense till the end credits. Add to that a fast pace and plenty of exciting action and you have yourself a definite crowd pleaser.

Now SNAKES ON A PLANE doesn't aspire to be anything else but a B-movie, a thrill ride with no deep themes or provocative messages. But if all B-movies were as enjoyable as this one, I'd give up on A-pictures altogether.

(One thing to keep in mind, however: SNAKES ON A PLANE definitely earns its R-rating, especially for violence, so this movie is not for the faint of heart. The violence, however, is pivotal to the picture's success because it shocks the audience into a state of constant tension, so I guess those bloggers were right all along to go for that R-rating.)

Responses, comments and general two-cents worth can be E-mailed to gillis662000@yahoo.com.

(Note: For all those who missed my past reviews, they're now archived on Hollywoodlitsales.com. Just click the link on the main page and it'll take you to the Inner Sanctum. Love them or Hate them at your leisure!)

A graduate of USC's School of Cinema-Television, Tom McCurrie has worked as a development executive, story analyst, screenwriter and teacher of screenwriting. He lives in Los Angeles and is currently working on a truly awesome novel.


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