2006-09-08 / Columnists


'Snakes On A Plane' - Box Office Venom
By Robert Snyder

The Internet word on "Snakes on a Plane" long before the film's release was, "It's so bad it's good."

The trouble is that "Snakes" was blogged to death. Despite or because of the hype, the airline thriller is in freefall, plummeting 58 per cent from number one ($15.7 million) to the sixth spot on the box office charts ($6.39 million) in its second week. Apparently, the anticipation of a camp classic was so high that the resulting workmanlike scare-in-the-air movie is a major disappointment. Also, the decision to move the PG-13 rating to R with added gratuitous sex, nudity and profanity has probably sent some New Line Cinema executives packing. (At the screening I attended in Green Acres, a group of sad-faced, too-young teens were turned away.)

Directed by David R. Ellis ("Cellular"), "Snakes" is more "Airport" than "Airplane!" Writer John Heffernan basically plays it straight with a mob revenge story about FBI agent Neville Flynn (stalwart Samuel L. Jackson) body-guarding surfer dude Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) on a red-eye flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles. Protection is needed because Jones witnessed gangland boss Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) brutally slaying a district prosecutor. In a burst of inspiration, the bad guys sneak a load of poisonous serpents into the plane's baggage compartment. But before boarding, the reptiles are sprayed with a stimulant, pheromone. This gives Flynn a chance to say, "Great, snakes on crack.." (In this age of 9/11 terrorism, let's hope the movie doesn't inspire any real budding Osama bin Ladens. It should be noted that two rattlesnakes were snuck into a Arizona theater showing "Snakes on a Plane." Now, that's scary!)

Once the vipers are unleashed, it's merely a question of who's going to survive. We know the over-sexed, pot-smoking couple getting it on in the bathroom are doomed. Why? Because they're the over-sexed, pot-smoking couple. Dead meat as well is the nasty British businessman who hates, little dogs, babies and Americans. Not so certain are the fates of the egotistical rap artist, the newlyweds or the two young boys traveling alone for the first time.

After the snakes begin biting, the movie has no real place to go, except the clichéd climax of "The pilots are dead....Is there anyone here who can fly a plane?" However, Jackson gets to say the line meant to land in camp movie history, "I'm sick and tired of these motherf--ing snakes on this motherf--ing plane!" This is supposed to justify spending ten bucks for a movie ticket. It doesn't. Wait for cable, Direct TV or the DVD.

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