January 30, 2010
Review - " Tooth Fairy " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Michael Lembeck
Starring: Dwayen Johnson, Julie Andrews, Ashley Judd, Chase Ellison,
Destiny Whitlock, Stephen Merchant, & Billy
Just as Hollywood has been digging through the superhero archives, it has
also been marauding the cupboard of mythical childhood creatures - they
come with a "built-in" audience, after all. Yes, following the big-screen
exploits of elves and bedroom monsters, the Tooth Fairy was inevitably
ready for its close-up.
"Tooth Fairy" steals liberally from "Monsters Inc." and "Elf," among many
others. It's very much what you'd expect: a tale of optimism overcoming
disbelief - family fare with comical casting (Julie Andrews as a Fairy
Godmother)- a PG-rated "SNL" skit - The Rock in a tutu.
But despite its predictability and pat Hollywood cliche, "Tooth Fairy" is mostly
charming. Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) is Derek Thompson, a formerly
skilled hockey player who, after injury, has wound up "a goon" - a bruiser
whose muscle shields more talented players - on a minor league hockey
team in Lansing, Mich. He's beloved by the fans, who chant his nickname
"the Tooth Fairy" because of his ability for sending bicuspids flying.
His overriding philosophy is akin to the early rounds of "American Idol":
Dreams are nothing but delusion. He dashes the hopes of pip-squeak fans
and very nearly ruins them for the two young children (Chase Ellison, Destiny Whitlock) of his girlfriend, Carly (Ashley Judd).
In violation of "dissemination of disbelief" he's summoned to Fairyland, where he's sentenced to two weeks of Tooth Fairy duty
by Andrews' Fairy Godmother. Stephen Merchant, the spindly, googly-eyed comedian best known as Ricky Gervais' frequent
collaborator, plays Derek's "case worker," and ushers him through fairy training. The spry, ever-grinning Merchant is a
considerable boost to the film - he's innately funny.
Billy Crystal (who also voiced one of the monsters in "Monsters Inc.") makes a cameo as an older fairy "with tenure," who
outfits Derek with the tools of the trade: a shrinking potion, amnesia dust, an invisibility spray, a cat repeller.
Johnson is perhaps ill suited to believably play a cynic. His enormous grin, even when in repose, is never far below the
surface. He's also playing a character quite close to his footballer in "The Game Plan." Nevertheless, he's exceptionally
winning. He's quickly becoming a decent actor, not great by any standards but servicable. He knows enough about comedy
(he's been an excellent "SNL" host) to make the joke on him. Comedy may be the movie realm (rather than action or, for now,
drama) best for Johnson. He's like a human-sized Buzz Lightyear.
That Derek should be neatly redeemed is patently obvious and confirms the lack of ambition of "Tooth Fairy."Director Michael
Lembeck (who helmed the second and third of the "Santa Claus" movies) shows little imagination in what could have been a
quirkier, more interesting kids tale. He does direct surprisingly good hockey sequences, though, including an overhead shot
of an airborne tooth.
But movies that implore whether or not you can
handle the tooth aren't to be picked apart like a
dentist. It's a kids movie and isn't meant to be taken
seriously. Suffice to say, families could do a lot
worse than spend some time with the toothy smiles
of Johnson and Merchant.