Snakes on a Plane
If the producers hadn't taken Samuel L. Jackson's advice and changed the original title, Snakes on a Plane, to Pacific Air Flight 121 it's very conceivable that audiences may have gone into this movie and been shocked to see how silly it is. Even though Hollywood's joined in on the campy bandwagon, playing up the concept's silliness for all its worth, the movie itself (with one key exception I'll discuss later) is refreshingly unaware of its inherent stupidity. As my brother said after he saw it Thursday night, "Even though they knew they were making a bad movie, they managed to make it seem like they didn't."
That, of course, makes all the difference. As Sontag observed, the best camp objects are the ones that don't know their camp, they have to be discovered by the audience: unintentional humor, like so many things, is in the eye of the beholder. And while intentional unintentional humor can be pulled off see 2004's Lost Skeleton of Cadavra it's difficult less satisfying and, in a way, less pure than the real deal.
And Snakes on a Plane is most certainly not the real deal. As soon as New Line began paying more attention to Ain't It Cool trolls than their own executives, demanding reshoots that included Jackson hollering the oh-so-satisfying line "Enough is enough! I've had it with these muthaf(in snakes on this muthaf(in plane!", the line between accidental and coldly calculated was definitively crossed.
But kudos to director David R. Ellis and the rest of the crew: this mutha is so stupid, it's hard to believe they wanted it to be this stupid. I mean the villain alone is the most hilarious of any movie of 2006: a vicious Asian gangster named Eddie Kim, who cackles as he kills a prosecutor then explains his evil plan y'know, the one that involves the snakes on the plane by saying "I had no other options!" Well, yeah, when you have no other options, you chuck some snakes on a plane. I do that all the time.
The only exception to Snake's straight-faced approach is Samuel L. Jackson, who grimaces, grunts, and jokes his way through the movie, doing everything possible to display his open contempt for the snakes short of turning to the camera and remarking "Can you believe this shit?" His performance plays like an audition tape for the next Zucker brothers movie. In Jackson's deadpan, profane exhaustion we may have finally found our generation's Leslie Nielsen.
What I admire most about Snakes on a Plane is its restraint. Ellis only killed one guy via snake bite to the penis when a lesser director who have gone back to the well three or four times. By putting a professional kickboxer, Ellis gave himself the opportunity to show a man karate kicking a snake in the head but he didn't take it; instead, he went the classier route, and had the kickboxer karate chop the snake. And where another man might have forced Jackson and Marguiles into an ill-advised romance Ellis well, okay, he sort of does that. But it's totally tasteful. And sexy.
Still nothing in Snakes on a Plane was half as crazy as the trailer for Jackson's next movie, Black Snake Moan, in which he chains Christina Ricci to his sofa and refuses to let her leave until she changes her wicked ways. "I want this muthaf#$*in white girl off my muthaf$&@in couch!"