A frightful, preposterous ride is to be had for the target audience of Snakes on a Plane. The venomous sometimes grinning creatures of all different colors and sizes are the main reason to see this capricious B-movie directed by David R. Ellis (Final Destination 2, Cellular).
The cheeky film starring Samuel L. Jackson (The Man, Shaft) is the more adult companion to Anaconda, a guilty pleasure for some, with Jon Voight stealing the show from JLo and Ice Cube. This randy rollercoaster excursion from Hawaii to Los Angeles seems on autopilot with the routine ssssss gotcha.
Originally entitled "Pacific Air Flight 121," Snakes on a Plane has had enough buzz over the last few months to promote itself, even on a web blog that nearly everyone who'll see it already knows about. The premise obviously invites much apprehension, especially in light of the recent aversion of a tragedy of commericial airlines heading for the U.S. from London's Heathrow Airport. But, Ellis fashions it into silly, if occasionally sanguine, late summer popcorn entertainment.
The story and the characters really don't have the bite of their pheromoned counterparts who'll do much damage to the electrical panels and the A/C, and, of course, the passengers and crew.
Jackson's jaded FBI Agent Flynn has to chaperone a key witness, Sean (Nathan Philips), against brutal crime lord Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). Sean, who yearns for Bali, fled the scene on his Kawasaki after pulverizing a dangling prosecutor.
A little product placement is worked in, from the Red Bull drink to Purell hand sanitizer, the latter used by one of the passengers, rap star and germophobe Three G.
Similar to the recent King Kong, it's not important to show how the slithering menace get to their crated position covered with leis. They have a night vision in green tint that reminds one of Predator, and the stalking of their prey is probably the most original thing on screen.
Ellis and his writers, who include Sebastien Gutierrez (Gothika), do their best to create amusing scenes between passengers and crew, including a lascivious pilot and an effete male attendant. Julianna Margules has done this stuff before with ghosts to the same effect; this time she's the stewardess on her last flight before entering the legal profession.
Bobby Cannavale is the FBI agent on the Kim case who stays in contact with Flynn as he tracks a snake expert (Todd Louiso) who'll provide much information on this dastardly scheme to make sure Sean won't testify in L.A.
Rachel Blanchard (Where the Truth Lies) is watchable as a passenger with a little dog that keeps her busy, for a while. And David Koechner (Thank You for Smoking) is cutely candid as the aforementioned second-in-command pilot, while Kenan Thompson (Fat Albert) is the affably snide friend of Three G who gets more of an upfront seat near the end.
The effect of these people meeting their demise is funny in the way the snakes are awfully quiet until they strike, especially in the early going. You can vividly imagine what happens when a naked couple are getting high in the bathroom or a guy relieving himself. This is before the plane really hits some turbulence.
Jackson gets to display his bad-ass ("Do what I say and you will live") persona to reasonably good effect but knows what kind of movie he's in when someone says, "time is tissue." Snakes on a Plane even finds time for gravitas when it comes to a drawing of a cobra, the handiness of olive oil, or before a flash of pyromania. Unfortunately the chills and logic are decompressed long before the grim reptile flashes his fangs when surfs up.