Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Famously, Snakes on a Plane came about from a contest to come up with the worst pitches for a movie ever. Somehow the idea got gained traction online, and Samuel L. Jackson even signed up for this hybrid of Under Siege and a low-budget Jaws ripoff, with the agreement that they would keep the name from the original draft.
The result? Some fanfare, a good performance by Jackson as always, but just as bad as the pitch would have made it sound.
Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) is on vacation in Hawaii when he witnesses crime kingpin Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) murder a businessman. He thinks he got away without being recognized, but Kim sends goons to kill him. Luckily, FBI agent Neville Flynn (Jackson) also knows that Jones was a witness, and shows up in time to protect him. Reluctant at first, Jones agrees to return to the mainland with Flynn and testify against Kim.
In a desperate bid to prevent Jones from testifying, Kim hatches a plot to lace the leis given to outgoing passengers with pheromones that drive snakes into a mating and killing frenzy. Of course, in order for this to have any effect, he also has to make sure that there are cages full of poisonous snakes smuggled on board the plane, with timers set to release them while it is in flight.
At first things go as he plans, as the snakes inadvertently mess with wiring and then begin a full-scale attack upon the passengers and the crew. However, with the help of various passengers and resourceful flight attendant Claire Miller (Julianna Margulies), Flynn tries to make sure the flight stays in the air and everyone survives to land in Los Angeles so they can bring Kim to justice. On the ground, it is also a race against time to identify the snakes and prepare antivenom to administer when the plane lands.
In truth, these nature-gone-wild movies can sometimes be pretty good. Snakes, however, have really never had a good movie about them. Sssss! probably came closest, but usually we're stuck with stuff like Anaconda or the Asylum movies. Disappointingly, this felt like of the latter, the only thing setting it aside from Asylum is the fact that it has actors that didn't need to get a weekend pass from rehab.
Think that's harsh? The CGI in this is horrible. There are some real snakes used, but any time a CGI snake is used it is quite obvious, since none of their models act anything remotely snakelike. The special effects crew barely took time to try to get them to blend in with their environment. It is truly on a level of the animation from The Mummy 2.
The other problem is that the makers know why this eventually got to be made, and it was simply because of the internet and people wanting to hear Samuel L. Jackson say that famous line about getting the snakes off the plane. That is it. A few shots of nudity and extra violence were thrown in since this was already going to get an R rating for that line, and in the end we have a movie that is practically mugging at the camera the whole time.
A shame since, if it hadn't been so self-referential and knew what it wanted to do, it could have worked the same way Volcano did in sending up these types of movies. Jackson is great as always, but we get some memorable side characters in germophobic rapper Three G's (Flex Alexander) and his friend Big Leroy (Keith Dallas), the latter who steps in to save the day toward the end. Also, the lecherous pilot turns out to be pretty interesting as well.
In the end it turns out to be just barely this side of something you would see on SyFy. It's a case of being careful what you wish for. What you might get is a half-assed movie capped off by a music video featuring some of the worst rap-rock of the 2000s.
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Time: 105 minutes
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips
Director: David R. Ellis