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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: Snakes on a Plane

Review by Kevin Crossman

Riding his motorcycle in Hawaii, Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) witnesses the brutal mob murder of a prosecutor. When the villains come to take out Sean, Agent Nelville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) comes to his rescue. In order to protect Sean for the trip back to L.A., Flynn takes over the entire First Class section of Pacific Air Flight 121. Aside from stereotypical First Class passengers who must mix with the stereotypical coach passengers, the flight is uneventful until hundreds of angry, poisonous snakes are released into the cabin. Once the snakes begin attacking, it is up to Agent Flynn, Sean, and flight attendant Claire Miller (Julianna Margulies) to keep the plane in the air and save as many passengers as they can.

Thus sets up one of the best times I've had in a movie theatre in years. All the things you've heard about the movie are true. It's stupid, campy, and not particularly clever. But it's also a great time, especially when seen with a crowd. The movie threads a very fine line between seriousness and self-parody and at times it veers a bit too far in either direction. But taken as a whole, the flight plan is sound and takes the audience from to their desired destination.

There's a lot to like in this movie. It starts with a spectacular helicopter shot of Diamond Head and Waikiki and moves quickly to develop the plot. Jackson's entrance is a handled well and we understand quickly the skills the character possess. Though, truth be told, anyone familiar with a mere fraction of Jackson's filmography will pick up on things very quickly. He's great in this film.

Then we move to the flight boarding, introducing the myriad of stereotypes. There's the mother and a baby, two boys traveling alone, a Paris Hilton clone, a rapper and his posse, honeymooners (one of which is afraid of flying), and so on. Even the flight crew is painted with familiar lines. Margulies' character is on her last flight before retirement, and she's joined by a crew that also features a pretty blonde, a middle aged spinster, and gay man. David Koechner channels Champ Kind from Anchorman to play the chauvinistic copilot. With stereotypes like this, it's clear this isn't the thinking man's aviation adventure.

Yet, somehow, Snakes manages to rise above it. There's a certain charm from these characters, and Jackson and Margulies are the glue that hold it together. There's not a single wink or nod to the camera; they're in a ridiculous plot but they're playing it stone cold straight. They're both excellent, as is Koechner who delivers a great monologue. SNL's Keenan Thompson is another standout, bringing big laughs and a ton of enthusiasm as the rapper's friend.

The audience reaction to the snakes in this movie was infectious. Presented very menacingly, and often using "snake cam" views, we soon start the death and mayhem we've come to expect. People are killed in a number of interesting ways, and there are a couple of effective "jump" moments. And the snakes keep coming and coming, climaxing with a great moment with a giant python. So, it's quite believable when Jackson utters the famous line that will go down as one of the best in movie history. In my theatre, the crowd applauded wildly here.

     

There's not a lot to learn from this movie, nor does one come to understand the mysteries of life. It isn't breakthrough filmmaking either. But the filmmakers have created an exciting, engaging, set of characters and situations and for 105 minutes the audience will largely enjoy the ride. It's "fast food" for sure, but man does not live on steak alone.

Simply put, Snakes on a Plane is designed for a fun time in a crowded theatre. And the movie delivers!

***

Clip Featuring David Koechner's Monologue

MP4 download