Snakes on a Plane
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir David R Ellis
scr John Heffernan, Sebastian Gutierrez
with Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Bobby Cannavale, David Koechner, Nathan Phillips, Todd Louiso, Rachel Blanchard, Lin Shaye, Sunny Mabrey, Bruce James, Flex Alexander, Kenan Thompson
release US/UK 18.Aug.06
06/US New Line 1h45

Enjoy the flight: Phillips and Jackson

margulies cannavale koechner

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Snakes on a Plane Lively and gleefully ridiculous, this B-movie disaster thriller has the thinnest imaginable premise (see the title) and yet manages to be more fun than most big-budget summer blockbusters.

Dirt-biker Sean (Phillips) inadvertently witnesses a mob hit in Honolulu, then is coaxed into being a witness by bull-headed FBI Agent Flynn (Jackson). But the bad guys figure out which red-eye flight they'll take to Los Angeles for the trial and load a crate of pheromone-hyped snakes, set free halfway across the Pacific during a conveniently turbulent thunderstorm. Mayhem ensues, during which Flynn and the crew (Koechner, Marguiles, Mabrey, Shaye and James), with the help of an FBI agent (Cannavale) in L.A., try to keep as many people alive as possible.

The set-up is brisk, introducing us to passengers with just enough detail that we can feel sympathy for the kids travelling alone, the nervous honeymooners, the stewardesses on the verge of retirement (Shaye) or a new career (Margulies), the spoiled rich girl (Blanchard), the germ-phobic rap star (Alexander), and so on. The cast clearly have a lot of fun adding quirks and playfully delivering the script's joke-filled dialog.

Jackson, of course, holds everything together expertly. He's especially entertaining when he gets to the end of his tether ("Oh great: snakes on crack!"). The dialog is loaded with corny innuendo and the goofy, nonsensical logic of 1970s disaster movies, which keeps us chuckling through each ludicrous action set piece.

Director Ellis (Final Destination 2) maintains the nutty humour right through the most gruesome sequences, keeping us jumping through the sheer relentlessness as all varieties of crazed snakes attack people in every conceivable way (plus a few hilariously inconceivable ones). He even manages to make the preposterously huge climactic python scary then funny then horrendous. Although the finale feels strangely rushed.

It's completely over the top in every way--relentless, gratuitous, implausible and insane. But it's also packed with humour and terror that's both delightfully cheesy and effectively funny or scary. The distributor's decision not to show the film to the press may turn out to be their biggest mistake, because journalists would have loved this.

cert 15 themes, language, grisly violence, sexuality 18.Aug.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Snakes on a Plane Donna R Carter, Wisconsin: "This could have been a legit adult movie, if they hadn't made such an issue out of being sure that so many snakes bit so many people in their privates or other highly unlikely and unusually disgusting locations, to assure the gross-out factor was so high. If it weren't for the mile-high club nudity, one would have seriously thought the junior high and high school boys were the target audience. It struck me as kind of a combination between Airport and Piranha." (21.Aug.06)
2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall