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Cheesiness, horror reign in ‘Snakes on a Plane’

Brian Doxtader | Tuesday, January 30, 2007

“Snakes on a Plane” wasn’t quite the blockbuster hit that New Line Cinema was hoping for, but – like most cult classics – its reputation could grow with the home release version. The DVD edition of the movie that’s so bad it’s good isn’t fancy or loaded with extras, but like Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the film, it gets the job done.

The plot follows Agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) as he works to protect Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips), a surfer dude who witnesses murder at the hands of crime boss Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). Flynn accompanies Jones on an overnight flight from Hawaii to California, but little do they know that Kim has released poisonous snakes onto the plane in order to prevent Jones from testifying against him.

Sound silly? It is. Actually, though, “Snakes on a Plane” really isn’t as bad as it might appear to be. In fact, as a pure thriller, it’s quite a bit better than a lot of films that take themselves too seriously (“Speed,” anyone?). “Snakes on a Plane” may be a bit kitschy, yes, but it never feels forced. The actors, especially Jackson, play it with a straight face, though there’s the slightest hint of a wink behind Flynn’s scowling facade. The plot’s semblance of logic works for the most part, and the characters have the good sense to question it when it doesn’t.

In reality, though, the plot is jut an excuse to get Jackson on a plane with snakes. Sure, it’s goofy, but it’s also fun, an element that’s missing in a lot of modern action movies. Director David R. Ellis’ previous work was mostly as a stunt coordinator, and he puts that experience to good use. The film has a nice blend of action and humor, and several of the action set pieces are surprisingly well done.

The film is also surprisingly violent, with several memorable death scenes and a few particularly graphic sequences. Some of the violence is excessive, and although it’s hard to imagine snake attacks that aren’t gruesome, some viewers will wish that they weren’t so explicit.

The DVD is pretty much what could be expected. A movie like “Snakes on Plane” doesn’t need a slew of fancy special features as long as the image and sound quality are acceptable, and New Line’s DVD edition is better than decent. The 6.1 DTS track is surprisingly immersive, with strong use of surround and deep bass. The special features include a commentary, a dispensable “making-of” featurette, deleted scenes, music videos and a blooper reel. None of the features are particularly outstanding and most are for “Snakes on a Plane” enthusiasts only. It’s hard to imagine that a film like this requires a “special edition” DVD, so the current edition should be more than adequate for most casual fans.

“Snakes on a Plane” is by no means a great (or even a good) film, but it obviously doesn’t want to be. Like a thrill ride, it’s cheap, fun and expendable. It’s self-aware enough to know it shouldn’t be taken seriously, but it’s not self-conscious to the point of distraction. “Snakes on a Plane” does what it does very well, and in that regard, it should be taken on its own terms. Besides, what’s really more fun than watching Samuel L. Jackson ward off poisonous snakes with a spork?