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‘Snakes’ doesn’t bite

Snakes on a Plane lives up to the hype. That’s the only question left about the movie, so let’s get it out of the way.

Of course, what does that mean for a movie that set the bar so low? From the moment the title was made public, everyone knew it was going to be bad. It revels in slaphappy crappiness; it is to movies what William Shatner is to music. But it’s also honest, and delivers on what it promises: absurdity at cruising altitude. It’s over the top and purposely gratuitous. It’s so over the top that most of the violence, no matter how graphic, provokes laughter instead of shock.

Spoilers aren’t an issue, because the plot doesn’t matter. The story holds together fairly well and is more nuanced than perhaps anyone expected, but that’s really ancillary. The movie is about snakes on a plane with Samuel L. Jackson, and from that standpoint it delivers.

So what about the snakes? Well, they’re there, and they’re angry. Once released into the plane’s cabin, the snakes begin ruthlessly hunting and attacking passengers, latching onto eyes, tongues, puppies and, in a couple of cases, genitals. What’s more, the movie frequently present’s the snake’s view of things, switching over to what looks like a night-vision camera with Vaseline smeared on the lens as the reptiles close in on in their victims. It’s ludicrous, and it’s great.

The clichés that normally serve to ruin most movies of this type actually serve to keep Snakes aloft. You can tell the fate of a character from the instant they’re introduced, much of the dialog is hackneyed and unoriginal, and the characters may as well be cardboard standees. However, the honesty with which this amalgam of mediocrity presents itself has a certain charm. The characters aren’t deep because deep characterization would’ve ruined the movie. With the exception of Jackson, you aren’t supposed to care about them. This isn’t a movie that wants you to think, it’s a movie that wants you to kick back for an hour and a half and join the fun as it laughs at itself.

Snakes on a Plane is a spoof, first and foremost. It’s not brilliant, but it works. If you want satire on a plane, watch Airplane. But if you want to sit in a theater and laugh for 100 minutes at a shameless barrage of every cliché the action-thriller genre has to offer, Snakes is a good choice. It’s the perfect summer movie. It has snakes, planes, guns, sex, thrills, chills and, most importantly, a healthy dose of fun.

Oh, and at the end of the movie, Sam Jackson goes surfing. Enough said.