Look, it’s called Snakes on Plane, so you know exactly what you’re getting into. This is not deep, meaningful, win-an-award-while-someone-cries -and-thanks-everyone-for-this-honor. This is cheese, served with a smile, best watched with a gang of friends in a packed theatre where everyone can laugh at the foolishness together.
See, there’s a guy (Nathan Phillips) who happened to witness a murder by a big time crime boss, so he’s flying to LA to testify, guarded by Samuel L. Jackson. Naturally the crime boss would prefer he not be alive for this, so he has the plane loaded with poisonous snakes from around the world, gets the snakes high (Snakes on Crack might have been a better title) and then has them turned loose once the plane is in flight.
So the drugged up snakes go to town, biting and attacking everything they can, which in the first few instances involve various sexual situations, because remember, there is no horror story, even a purposefully silly one, without some sex. There’s lots of death and chaos and close ups of snakes underfoot (try thinking about that on your next flight) with plenty of gore and thrills. The passengers, an assorted mix of characters, attempt to flee to other parts of the plane, assisted by Jackson and the flight crew, who are a bunch of characters in and of themselves. There are plot holes galore, absolutely insane theatrics, neat CGI and plenty of Samuel L. Jackson to enjoy.
It’s all good stuff, but not great. The movie feels like a good first draft: there’s fun stuff in there, but a lot of baggage that needs to be sorted out. Mostly the cast is a series of second stringers or no names, except for Julianna Margulies (of ER fame) as the flight attendant on her last flight and Rachel Blanchard as a precocious, spoiled blond. Supposedly (according to imdb.com) Jackson took the role based on the title alone (and got the studio to keep the title when they were thinking of changing), but director David R. Ellis (Cellular and Final Destination 2) doesn’t seem aware who he has in the starring role, as Jackson seems rather low key. There’s wonderful chemistry between him and Margulies, which could have anchored the film, but it’s never really used. The snakes are great, but there are only so many times the camera can look in a dark corner as something slithers about. A tighter script with better acting from the passengers and slicker, more inspired direction would have made this great.
But look, it’s called Snakes on a Plane. It’s not trying to win any award, though maybe it should have. Grab some friends, load up on popcorn, soda and nachos, and mix a few thrills with some laughs for a couple of hours. ç -- Brandon Blatcher