- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2006

“Snakes on a Plane” is a triumph of marketing over movie. That’s not to say the Web-hyped thriller doesn’t deliver any B-movie jumps. It’s a nonstop crush of gore, stale dialogue and mayhem, overseen by the baddest man in cinema, Samuel L. Jackson.

But had “Snakes” been just another late summer movie, it would have done only modest business before slip-sliding down the box office chart.

Witness Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) is set to testify against a vicious mob boss named Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). Mr. Jackson stars as an FBI agent assigned to escort the witness from Hawaii to Los Angeles. Kim plants a score of venomous snakes on the plane the two are taking, hoping the reptiles will end the flight prematurely.

The plan works to perfection until Mr. Jackson steps in. The snakes, sprayed with pheromones to spike their natural aggression, kill dozens of passengers as well as the pilot. The airplane’s lights dim, and the air conditioning shorts out.

Only Mr. Jackson can save the day. (We’ll not bother with his character’s name since it’s barely mentioned and he’s essentially playing a self-caricature.)

What “Snakes” does best is not take itself seriously, not for a moment. It’s all about pleasing its base — young men weaned on the Internet, giddy over video games and never averse to on-screen nudity. Director David R. Ellis strikes just the right tone for such B-movie nonsense in the opening moments and hangs on for dear life.

Sometimes, even the soggy screenplay comes to life and leaves us laughing with it instead of at it. “Snakes” supporting players prove a sturdy lot, anchored by “Saturday Night Live’s” Kenan Thompson and David Koechner as a feisty co-pilot. They’re all in on the joke, even if their dignity could take a hit the morning after.

And a round of applause to the snakes themselves, a terrifying mass of stowaways who prove ferocious and unrelenting. The creatures are the film’s best special effect, and their slithering bodies are fascinating to behold. There’s something elemental in the human fear of snakes, and this “Plane” knows exactly how to exploit it.

But we can see the strings being pulled at every turn. The shock moments are uniformly telegraphed, and even the movie’s expletive laden catch phrase sounds like it was slapped on once the Internet buzz reached a deafening pitch.

“Snakes on a Plane,” the phenomenon, probably peaked in the days before its release date. The film itself is a lowest common denominator romp that fulfills every B-movie requirement. We expect many ticket buyers will want something more.


TITLE: “Snakes on a Plane”

RATING: R (Adult language, sexual situations, nudity

and gore)

CREDITS: Directed by David R. Ellis. Screenplay by

John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez.

RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www.snakesonaplane.com/

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