Tuesday, March 06, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: Snakes on a Plane (2006)

I'll be honest: I haven't enjoyed a movie this much since I saw Borat. During Snakes on a Plane, I confess, I must have suffered at least three uncontrollable giggle fits. The first (and best instance...) involved a fat rapper getting bit on his big fat ass by a determined snake, which just stuck there plugged to his butt for several seconds, while he shimmied around comically.

At this point in the movie, Kathryn said to me, "this is a movie designed for 13-year old boys." Whoo-hoo!! My mental "demographic" precisely! She's right, of course...

Yes, Snakes on a Plane is a latter-day exploitation flick with no pretensions of greatness or artistry. This is a (ridiculous) movie in which there's snake vision P.O.V. (which looks kind of like the monster vision from Pitch Black...), and also every outrageous snake attack you can imagine. It's like a check-list of silly moments with snakes. A snake bites a man's penis while he's urinating ("get off my dick, bitch!" he shouts during the uncomfortable-looking tussle...). Another snake latches on to a woman's ample nipple while she's having sex in the bathroom with her boyfriend. Then there's the aforementioned ass-bite, a coup-de-grace for the ages.

But wait, there's more. Snakes on a Plane also offers a snake baked in a microwave oven (shades of Gremlins...), snakes leaping out of barf bags, snakes pleasuring fat women travelers (don't ask...), and a virtual potpourri of other movie absurdities.

I'm reminded of Stephen King's description of "moron movies" while writing this review, and I must say, this is the most enjoyable moron movie I've seen in a long while. By the time Samuel L. Jackson verbalizes his famous quote about "motherfucking" snakes on a "motherfucking plane," the movie had won me over. In fact, it had me at the ass-bite. By the way, that moment with the snake and the ass-bite is quickly followed by a hysterical scene in which a male air-flight attendant offers to suck the snake poison...out of the rapper's ass.

Oh, glory days.

It's easy to dismiss Snakes on a Plane as trash. But what marvelous trash it is! And it comes from a long, storied history in terms of genre/exploitation movie-making. Because - let's face it - this movie is a perfect (and I do mean perfect...) fusion of two 1970s B- forms that I cherish. The first is the revenge-of-nature or nature-gone-amok environmental horror films of the 1970s. You remember, don't you? I speak of Frogs (1972) or my personal favorite, Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), which pitted William Shatner against buckets and buckets of creepy crawlies. In this genre, animals go nuts and attack people, usually because of something bad humans did (like experiment with hormones, or pollute the environment). In this case, evil criminals have sprayed pheromones on Hawaiian leis to drive the snakes wild! This is SSSSSSS! (Hiss it, don't say it!), or Stanley (1972) or Venom (1982) gone one better.

The other genre in the mix is the airplane disaster movie, efforts such as Airport 1975...the airborne equivalent of The Poseidon Adventure. This genre has seen a resuscitation of late with the entertaining Craven thriller Red Eye and the lugubrious but pretty stupid Flight Plan starring Jodie Foster, but Snakes on a Plane is hands-down the best variation on this form since it was thoroughly roasted by Airplane! in 1980.


A jaunty, go-for-broke fusion of airport/disaster movie and animals gone wild - with all the cliches and gimmicks of each genre on hand - is irresistible to a movie historian like me. Let's see: we've got all the passenger/victim stereotypes we'd expect in the plane movie, including a newlywed couple, two children on their "first" solo air flight, a famous musician (not Sonny Bono, here, alas), a cop, the well-meaning stewardesses, and even a police witness being flown under protective custody. Then we have all the in-flight disasters you could imagine: the death of the pilots (meaning someone else has to land the plane!), mechanical disruptions, and the trip to the cargo section. And, naturally - depressurization in mid-air.


Best of all is that this film was written dead serious, with howlingly-bad dialogue only the most perverse movie lovers could love and enjoy (like a fine wine...). The moment when the snake expert (described in the script as a "hardcore snake specialist") describes to Samuel L. Jackson the nature of the snakes as "serious" and "hyper-aggressive" and Jackson responds that they are "snakes on cracks" is a high-point for this brand of silly entertainment. I also love the moment when Jackson's partner confesses that he suffers from Ophidophobia -- a fear of snakes. Like what are the chances he'd end up on a plane with snakes? In this genre, 100%!


The end of Snakes on a Plane is a bit of a mood breaker. The smirks and silliness inherent in vetting such material bubbles to the surface, and the mood of deadpan thrills and chills is broken. It's as though no one could keep a straight face for the climax. Which is understandable I guess. From the gag reel, it looks like the cast had a hell of a good time creating this silly movie, and that's to their credit. It's a testament to their professionalism that they didn't laugh their asses off till almost the end of the picture.

This movie is review-proof, really. I loved it, but wouldn't say it is a "good" movie in any traditional or objective sense. Only you know if you appreciate this kind of nonsense. I do appreciate it, so I had a whopping good time with the movie. Even Kathryn did. We watched it late at night, and she tried to will herself to sleep during it, but couldn't do it. Snakes on a Plane holds the attention, and makes with the belly-laughs. It will be discussed for years in the annals of moron movies, and guilty pleasures.

1 comment:

  1. joey_bishop_jr.10:48 AM

    I saw this in the theater, and loved it. Of course, I'm the only person I know who did.....

    I agree with you buddy. How can you be disappointed leaving the theater here? The title tells you EXACTLY what you're gonna get, and they deliver. People who say this is a "dumb" movie are also the folks who complain about the plotlines of Friday the 13th movies.

    And by the way....I think, given the right circumstances, I really thbink that "you had me at the ass bite" can be just as meaningful as "you had me at hello".

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