Friday, May 1, 2009


Deliriously cheesy, SNAKES ON A PLANE is a riotous blend of Nature Runs Amok and In-Flight Terror subgenres. It plucks the best elements of both and tosses in a bit of TV Cop Show witness protection intrigue for good measure. S.O.A.P. begins and ends with beach montages. This threw us considering the film is about an airplane. During the opening credits, (which slide from beach shots to dirtbike stunts with all the narrative grace of a Mountain Dew commercial), we wondered if we had loaded the right film into our DVD player!

Nathan Phillips, the hunky motorcrosser in the opening, witnesses a bloody mob hit in Hawaii and is immediately almost taken out by members of the Eddie Kim gang. Luckily, Agent Samuel L. Jackson whisks him away to the safety of police custody via a hilariously hambone hotel-room shootout. From here we move to the airport - where you'll be thrilled to be out of the leafy wilds of Hawaii and into the sterile, claustrophobia-inducing halls and compartments of the travel industry.

Right off the bat, we're introduced to our flight crew, which features a few working girls, a sexually aggressive co-pilot, and even a token "Air-Mary" (or at least he seems to be). In the tradition of clichéd cop movies, Juliana Margulies is on her "last day on the job" and just wants it to be an easy one; however, somewhat NOT in the tradition of clichéd cop movies, she's not a cop - she's a stewardess. And we also learn that the chief baddie has decided to fill the plane with snakes, disguised as Hawaiian lais (don't ask), in order to kill off witness Phillips. (Already we're delighted at how the conventions of our various thriller subgenres are being appropriated, customized, retro-fitted, and inflated to near-bursting.)

Next we meet the passengers, who range from generic stereotypes (the fat woman in the muumuu; the kids flying alone for the first time) to outright celebrity parody (Rachel Blanchard as a blonde bimbo with a tiny purse-dog name Mary-Kate, who throws herself at Flex Alexander's germophobe rap star). This is all well and good because we just know that these idiots are going to be snake-bait in mere moments. (But honestly - don't think too hard about anything in this movie, because it doesn't pay. All we really need is to fill the plane with snakes, add passengers, stir and enjoy.)

Once the snakes arrive, this endearing little B-movie kicks into high-gear. The fanged stowaways start attacking and they pretty much don't stop for the duration, giving us dozens of hilarious attacks with a fairly hefty body count. The clichés also arrive in ferocious number - (The noble stewardess ventures back into the snake-ridden coach cabin to save the missing baby; the inevitable "is there anyone on board who can fly a plane?" Karen Black sequence), and with so many delicious snake incidents in between, it's pretty hard to get bored. Since Snakes On A Plane makes no attempt to rise above its B-movie premise, (and actually seems quite happy to wallow the ridiculous excesses it creates), it's very hard to get angry at it. The only thing that bothered us was the handling of the film's "gay" character, who ends up not being gay.

Yes, the gay-seeming steward who spends the movie clapping and looking wide-eyed and offering to suck the venom out of fat men's behinds ends up being a total hetero, which is kind of a dated joke and a bit of a screw-you to anyone who actually enjoyed the fact that a gay character was somewhat heroic, helpful, sensitive, and alive by the last reel. (And just why are the other stewardesses shocked that he's hugging his girlfriend at the end? Have they never had a conversation with this man during their 5-hour flights?) The filmmakers seem to be patting the homophobes in the audience on the head and saying, "it's alright to have liked that character because he's straight after all! Now get back to defacing pictures of Clay Aiken".
Anyway, while S.O.A.P. isn't high art it's certainly worth your time. Make sure and see it with a roomful of your snarkiest friends for maximum enjoyment. It's Fangy, Frothy Fun!

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