If historians of the future decide to write an updated version of Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds, Charles MacKay's book on popular manias throughout history, they'd be wise to include a chapter on Snakes On A Plane. Thanks to a happy convergence of star, title, and premise, as well as an unprecedented level of Internet hype, Snakes morphed from a low-budget B-movie to a pop-culture phenomenon. Now that Snakes has finally been released, all the bandwagon enthusiasts who thrilled to snakesonablog.com and made their own fan art can officially experience crushing disappointment in a movie theater. For Snakes isn't awesomely bad, or hilariously bad, or so bad it's, like, totally the most funnest movie ever. It's just plain bad.
In the most overhyped role of his career, Samuel L. Jackson plays an FBI agent assigned to transport witness Nathan Phillips to Los Angeles so he can testify against glowering kingpin Byron Lawson. To keep Phillips from making it to the courtroom, Lawson conspires to unleash poisonous snakes onboard his flight. Early in the film, it's established that Lawson only resorted to such drastic measures because he ran out of other options, which demands the question: How many options do you have to deplete before resorting to snakes-on-a-plane?
Once the self-perpetuating Internet hype engine took off, Snakes On A Plane underwent five days of raunchy re-shoots so it could pander more effectively to its growing cult, and it's hard to avoid the sense that the film was de-fanged for a PG-13, then hastily re-fanged for an R. Snakes takes forever to get going, wasting half its time on warmed-over sitcom banter and scenes establishing a sprawling cast of one-dimensional caricatures. But once the motherfucking snakes get loose in the motherfucking plane, the film doesn't improve much. Granted, a movie called Snakes On A Plane isn't shooting for gritty verisimilitude, but it simply isn't scary or fun watching computer-generated snakes attack sentient slabs of cardboard. Not since Pet Rocks riveted the nation have so many gotten so excited over so little.