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Movies | Snakes will be remembered for blog input-and little else

Issue: "Effective compassion," Sept. 2, 2006

Snakes on a Plane-here's a movie that has received more attention for its mere existence than most movies enjoy even after they open. Now that this internet-age phenomenon is finally in theaters, it is still more interesting for how it got there than for what it is.

The film is pure B-grade junk. Is it bad enough to be good? Pretty close, really. The minimal plot setup begins in Hawaii and involves a witness (Nathan Phillips) to a drug murder. FBI agent Nelville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) arrives on the scene to transport this new star witness for the prosecution to Los Angeles for the trial. With just one flight between drug kingpin Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) and certain conviction, what options are left?

Snakes on the plane. Venomous snakes. Better yet, a crate full of poisonous snakes of all shapes and sizes. The snakes are let loose, made crazy by pheromones sprayed on the flower leis passengers received when they boarded the flight, and they quickly set to work doing what venomous snakes do. At least what they do in the movies.

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The flimsy plot, the cringe-inducing dialogue, the poorly computer-animated snakes-all of this could make for great fun. But what was once targeted as a PG-13 film became a solidly R-rated film, the result of heretofore-unheard-of responsiveness of filmmakers to fan chatter on the internet.

As grass-roots interest in Snakes on a Plane rose, thanks to websites like www.snakesonablog.com and countless YouTube video parodies and fan trailers, producer New Line actually brought the principal cast back to shoot additional footage. These fan-inspired additions included an explicit restroom sex scene and plenty of bad language and gore. Snakes basically only have one mode of attack, so the filmmakers vary the action by having their fangs chomp into just about every body part imaginable.

Bloggers proved that they could be instrumental in taking down a media icon during the Dan Rather scandal, and now, perhaps, they will get partial credit for creating a Hollywood hit. That's an interesting footnote in film and technology history, but it doesn't make Snakes on a Plane anything more than its title so honestly suggests.

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