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Movie Review

Snakes on a Plane

MPAA Rating: R for language, a scene of sexuality and drug use, and intense sequences of terror and violence

Reviewed by: Kenneth R. Morefield
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
Genre:
Thriller, Action, Suspense, Horror
Length:
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
2006
USA Release:
August 18, 2006 (wide)
Featuring: Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard, Todd Louiso, Julianna Margulies
Director: David R. Ellis
Producer: Penney Finkleman Cox, Sandra Rabins, Justis Greene
Distributor: New Line Cinema

“Relax. They’re first class fliers.”

There is no pleasure in this film that is not extrinsic.

There are pleasures in it, yes, let’s be honest. There is enough campy self-awareness in the film, enough formula, that nothing is really at stake, which is what allows the audience to let the more gruesome parts slide past without much indignation. There is a pleasure, too, in watching a game cast of true professionals really commit to the material, to dive head first into a pool of slithery silliness with zestful, fearless abandon.

Let’s be honest, too, though, that those pleasures aren’t really intrinsic to the film. They don’t emerge from the material; they are prepackaged in it, like the vitamins fortifying a bowl of frosted, sugar-puffed cereal. A good deal more than half the pleasure of the film (if pleasure there be) comes in waiting for what you know is coming—particularly Jackson’s profanely exasperated tirade about how he is “sick of the $#(Q$#Q$Q* snakes on the !@)(#$@ plane.”

The “plot” (I use the term loosely) is that Sean (Nathan Phillips) has witnessed a prosecutor being beaten to death by Eddie Kim (a mobster? drug lord? ah, who cares, really?) and must be transported back to Los Angeles by an FBI agent (Samuel L. Jackson) so that he can testify against Kim at trial. Poisonous snakes are smuggled onto the plane. Snakes are released. Chaos ensues, followed by noble acts of self-sacrifice, followed by more chaos and more sacrifice.

The truth is, “Snakes on a Plane”, is one of those films that may very well be review-proof. The genius of the title lies not in its annunciation of the film’s pitch—“Speed”, “Cliffhanger”, and “Love Story” are all titles that do the same thing. What “Snakes on a Plane” has working for it as a title (and, truthfully, as a film as well) is an unapologetic, almost defiant brazenness that lets it shrug off any criticism, however valid it might be:

Don’t like the incessant swearing? What were you expecting? Check the title of the film!

Don’t like the gruesome death shots of puffed up corpses? Check the title of the film!

If you started to ask whether the female nudity (or the whole sex scene) was gratuitous—of course it was—check the title of the film!

If you started to ask why the drug lord killed the prosecutor in broad daylight—see the title of the film!

If you started to ask why Eddie Kim had the ability to collect all the snakes from around the world, ship them to Hawaii, and get them on board but not the ability to just kill the witness—check the title of the film!

If you wonder why Eddie has to be tried in Los Angeles for a murder that he committed in Hawaii—check the title of the film!

If you are wondering whether or not the rich, snooty professional with the foreign accent who insults the flight attendants and the other passengers will receive the most horrific death of any of the passengers—you haven’t checked the title of the film!

The safe thing to do would be to give “Snakes on a Plane” an enthusiastic review. Those who are likely to see it are likely to get exactly what they expect and, hence, to be satisfied. Those likely to be offended by the film aren’t likely to be persuaded to see it by a warm review.

Honestly, though, I thought the film was the metaphoric equivalent of a “tweener” in basketball—a player that might be too big to play guard against smaller, faster opponents, yet too small to bang for rebounds against power forwards. “Snakes on a Plane” is a little too gross and gory for me to honestly be able to call it entertaining or fun and a little too conceptually stupid for me to think it could ever succeed as anything other than an entertainment piece. If you don’t like sports metaphors, say that the film aims at being slyly self-deprecating but comes across as a tad too calculated… and trying too hard rarely comes across as “cool.”

That’s not to say it won’t be successful. Most films that midwife pleasure rather than give birth to it may not be particularly good or interesting when subjected to formal, objective scrutiny. But there is an art towards engendering good will by providing a context for audience participation, whether it be imaginative (can you think of more ways to kill a snake using stuff available on an airplane than your buddy?) or ritual (memorizing lines and shouting them out). “Snakes on a Plane” has not only mastered that art, it has taken it to a new level.

My Grade: The marketing: A+ / The film: C+

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate


Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This is just a B-movie with a big budget, a popcorn movie that entertains and nothing more. The title says it all, and the mayhem that ensues in the film is what audiences expect and get. It’s one of those films where you check your brain at the door. There are many familiar characters including the baby in danger and the one person in a horror film who you hope bites the dust because they are so mean. There is gore, there are gruesome deaths, and a dash of sex. If horror films offend you in general, then do not see it.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Hillari, age 44
Positive—If ever there was a movie that was actually critic proof, this is it. Many movie makers try to be unconcerned with what critics think because they know their movie is bad, and it is a way to merely deflect criticism. But here, everyone involved with the movie understands that their movie is a “B” picture, and that is the point. The ridiculousness is blatant and intentional. To criticize the plot or even the effects would be to miss the point.

However. You can’t totally separate the movie from its audience, or, at least, its intended audience. Apparently, it wasn’t me. I wanted to see it because the whole thing sounded like one big joke, and a joke that included some action scenes with snakes, and one truly awesome line. And while that is part of the intention, the movie is really aimed at those people who rushed out to see the “Final Destination” movies (the second of which director David Ellis directed). The intended audience is, understandably, that very audience that has saturated the Internet with “Snakes on a Plane” blog discussions for the last calendar year. So when the preview before the movie was “Jackass: Number 2,” which displays quotations of critics who were appalled by the movie (including one from this Web site) and wears them as badges of pride as they show some new clips of utter idiocy, I was one of the only people in the theater not cheering. And that can’t help but say something.

So, did I enjoy the movie? Yes, I did, very much. It was pretty much what I expected, and actually, less violent than I thought it would be. I even loved the music video that played during the end credits. It is a fun movie to watch with your friends. Everyone will be laughing, some girls will jump or scream occasionally, and it will be fun. No, the sex scene was not necessary, and they showed as much nudity as possible. No, the movie is not for little kids. But for teens and up, I would say it is par for the course in terms of offensiveness. I’m not going to talk about any themes or messages, but the movie is tongue and cheek—it doesn’t have any. Yeah, the kid decides to testify against the villain, to “do the right thing.” The movie isn’t trying to compel the audience to do likewise, it just needed an excuse to have the snakes on the plane. Any discussions between parents and kids afterwards, then, would go about as follows:

“So, what did you think, Tommy?”
“That was awesome! When the giant snake ate the dog?”
“Yes, Tommy, that was pretty tight.”
“Word, Dad.”
“Word, indeed son.”
Go see it, enjoy the movie, joke about it, then let it go. That’s all it offers.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Jason Eaken, age 22
Positive—…It was pretty gory, violent, and fun. The plot: snakes. On. A. Plane. Now that that’s out of the way, there are plenty snakes, gruesome deaths, and cheesy one-liners. My friend didn’t know it was rated “R” until we got to the theater, and almost chickened out. We thought it was a fun, mindless, action movie. It delivered everything I wanted: snakes on a plane! Check it out. It’s a hard “R” movie, but the only part we looked away during was the sex scene. The funniest death was the scene right after, with the guy in the bathroom. Watch it!
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3
—Caleb, age 26
Neutral
Neutral—I saw the film in a crowded theater on opening night. The rabid fans who surrounded me were there for one thing: snakes on a plane. When the title appeared on the screen, the people around me (mostly college age) leapt to their feet and applauded wildly. The movie that followed was gross, funny, vile, crude, scary, and pretty much base. When I left with my friends, we concluded that we had never seen a movie that was less edifying. The question I must ask myself, though, is “what did I expect?”

This movie achieved everything that it promised. It never claimed to offer anything even remotely uplifting or wholesome. No one who attends this film should be shocked or offended (although the snake bites to uncomfortable parts of human anatomy were a bit much). It was everything its legions of fans hoped it would be. If you are an adult who retains any appetite at all for senseless juvenile indulgence, if you enjoy the rush of being grossed out, and if you have ever wanted to see a small irritating dog get eaten my a large reptile then you will probably enjoy this film. That being said, though I was not appalled by this movie, I cannot really recommend it to anyone, nor am I glad to have seen it myself.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—Andy, age 20
Negative
Negative—I admit I saw “Snakes on a Plane” as a guilty pleasure. I knew Samuel L. Jackson would me muttering that one line, but I thought overall it would just be campy fun and pretty clean. The movie did have to resort to the usual taking the Lord’s name in vain that a lot of action movies feel is “necessary.” I was offended by this. I thought the bathroom scene of the couple was uncalled for. This movie was just BAD. The plot, the dialogue and the untied loose ends were utterly absurd. The movie may have been paying homage to the B-movie genre, but it also insulted your intelligence at the same time. All I can think was “How was THIS movie ever made?” From an actors point of view, there should be some serious revoking of SAG cards. Do not waste your time or money. This movie will probably make a good profit due to all the hype but is a complete and utter waste of time and should be on the list of one top 100 worst movies of all time.
My Ratings: Offensive / 1
—Laura, age 30
Negative—This is one movie that has too much hype for the offensiveness of the movie. And yes, we knew it was R-Rated, but I think the rating should have been “M.” But take my word for it, this is not a movie to watch because of the genre, it gets too far “out there.” My 13 yr. old son and I went, and left after about 30 minutes. First one sees beach scenes and then a guy on a dirt bike (nice enough). Then the guy witnesses a D.A. getting thrown to hang upside down from a railroad trestle, then watches as his head gets batted by someone with a baseball bat. One doesn’t see the “connect” of the bat to head, but one sees a lot of blood spatter.

The next one, the snakes are released from their container and begin roaming the plane. Then, a couple wants to be part of the “mile high club,” and go into the lavatory. One sees the exposed upper part of the young woman (my son turned his head on this). The male has removed the smoke detector from the top of the lavatory. Then a huge venomous snake drops onto them, and one is exposed to a scene of the snake biting the woman on her nipple (there are lewd comments made by a couple of the plane’s crew).

The next one, a young man is going to another lavatory, and he is bitten full on his male private area. I won’t describe that part. And this is when we made a decision to leave. As I was getting my glasses on to leave, we watched as a snake crawled into the skirt of a seated woman. I’m guessing not much is left to the imagination there, as we were already out of the door. My son commented that he thought it was getting way too “weird” type of violent, and he thought the f-word was used too much.

We talked about knowing when to walk out of a movie, and how things like what we watched and heard can affect us.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Jesse Combs, age 53
Comments from young people
Positive—I saw this movie with a friend, on opening day. We were anticipating to see it ever since we saw the previews on TV and in the theaters. We made fun of the title and what it was going to be about for months, and finally decided to go see it. It did not disappoint! It was corny, and sometimes ridiculous, but in the end it was fun, and very entertaining to watch.

There is some very offensive material in the movie, though, that made me cringe at times. First, there is a lot of language, mostly F-words, and there were only a few other words used, including Jesus and other instances of taking the lord’s name in vain. Also there is a scene where two people are smoking what looks like marijuana, while having sex. You see some nudity, but that is really all. Then there is the violence. I was not offended by it, but it was at times excessive.

There was one part where a man fell on the floor and was stepped on repeatedly, and one woman’s heel impaled his ear. But if you are looking to see a corny, funny, and entertaining movie then this is the one for you. But be warned, if you are easily offended, I do not recommend this for you. Definitely not for anyone under 17 though.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Sam, age 17
Positive—My English teacher, who is a Christian, told me about this film back in May, and ever since then I became one of those Internet people you hear so much about in discussion of this movie. I saw the film opening night with a friend and my parents. The audience was just like me, all dressed up and talking to everybody, even people they didn’t know. Once the previews rolled, anything remotely in connection with the film was cheered for… Yes, there is lots of violence, a sex scene with breasts, and language. It is rated R for a reason. But let me tell you it is fun to watch, although you have to go with friends. When Jackson states his infamous line …“I want these mother _____ snakes off MY mother______ plane” everyone cheered, for a good 5 minutes. Never have I come out of a theatre more satisfied. The movie is campy and unrealistic, but once again, WHO CARES. The title is “Snakes On a Plane,” and that is what you get. A great film to watch with friends.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Jordan, age 17
Positive—I am gonna make this short. This is by far the funniest movie I have seen in AWHILE. I was rolling off the couch with laughter. This is a movie, however, MANY people won’t see due to the content. There is non-stop swearing, some gross violence, and sex/nudity. However, it is one that can be rented and watched as a family and fast forward the sex scene. However, the language and violence still might throw people off. Personally, I thought this movie was brilliant, and I enjoyed it A LOT.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Jeffrey, age 16