Monday, August 07, 2006

Movie Review - The Tooth Fairy (2006)

Movie Review – The Tooth Fairy (2006)

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s The Tooth Fairy came to my door about a week ago wrapped in an impressive looking piece of DVD packaging. And I was suitably impressed, until I saw, in large impressive letters, “A Film by Stephen J. Cannell”. Why did I flinch upon seeing this? If you don’t recognize the name, Stephen J. Cannell is probably one of the most influential people in the history of television. He is the creator of the A-Team, Renegade (with Lorenzo Lamas!), The Commish, 21 Jump Street, Riptide, The Greatest American Hero, and The Rockford Files. Take a look back on that list. It is an impressive list of some of the greatest shows to grace the airwaves; or at least when I was growing up. However, a good TV show creator does not a good horror movie creator make. Yeah, I’m sure Cannell, like Aaron Spelling, Sherwood Schwartz, and Donald P. Bellisario made some great TV… but they are not in the same league as George Romero, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, or Wes Craven for making one cower on the couch in the darkness of night.

Believe it or not, Cannell actually did a pretty good job.

The Tooth Fairy starts in 1949 where we see two hapless 10 year olds who sneak up to a ramshackle, spooky house in Northern California. They are there to see the Tooth Fairy, an old and horribly disfigured woman who is rumored to give gifts for the baby teeth of young children. One of the boys, harboring a desire for a Schwinn bike, knocks on the door and enters while his friend cowers in the bushes outside. The braver friend is convinced by the horrible (and mannish sounding) Tooth Fairy to give up a loose tooth, only to find that the crazy old woman is after more than the tooth. She proceeds to murder him with an ax in the foyer.

Fast forward to present day and we find that the spooky old house has been bought and renovated and turned into a bed and breakfast by a doctor named Peter who has given up on being a physician to run the b&b and write. Peter is played by an actor named Lochlyn Munro. He is one of those character actors whom you’ve seen in countless movies, but damned if you can remember any of them. He is just getting ready to open the bed and breakfast, and is being helped by his handyman Bobby (a young high school kid who looks like he’s in his late 20’s and played by an unknown Jesse Hutch). They are joined by Star Roberts, who hopes to move into the B&B a little early. Star is played by an actress named Carrie Fleming who is super, super hot. I mean, wow! Her character, Star, is an ex-stripper who is getting ready to start veterinarian school.

Meanwhile, across town, we meet Darcy (Chandra West) and her daughter Pamela (Nicole Munoz), who are driving up to the B&B to spend a week or so with Peter, Darcy’s ex-fiancée. They stop for directions at a local gas station, only to be attacked by two dimwitted and belligerent rednecks who hold a grudge against Peter for evicting them from the Tooth Fairy/B&B where they had been squatting. Although the brothers Chuck and Henry (played with total committment by Peter New and Ben Cotton) are gross exaggerations of redneck idiocy, they are two of the best characters in the film.

So, Darcy and Pamela get to the B&B, where Pamela meets Emma, a ghost who warns her about the Tooth Fairy. Per Emma the spirit guide, we learn that the Tooth Fairy collects the last baby teeth of children, and then murders them, preventing their souls from escaping. Emma leaves to ‘go home’, and Pamela is conveniently attacked by the Tooth Fairy on her bike ride home, conveniently losing her last baby tooth.

Heeding Emma’s warning, Pamela hides her baby tooth and only manages to anger the Tooth Fairy, who kills houseboy Bobby by stuffing him into an industrial wood chipper. The violence escalates, and the Tooth Fairy goes on a rampage in her search for the tooth of Pamela, until she is vanquished at the end.

So, what did I think of The Tooth Fairy? All in all, it wasn’t a bad movie. It had all of the elements that make up a standard, run of the mill serial killer/evil childhood character movie. It was rather formulaic at times, but then it would occasionally show flashes of originality that made it compelling to watch. The blood and gore effects were well done, which is always a plus. And the acting was very good. But again, the parts that resembled a cookie cutter horror film were the ones that hurt the film the most. There was the standard ‘kill those crazy kids who are having sex’ scene. The standard ‘ “Who’s there? Who made that ominous noise down the dark hall?”’ moment. And, perhaps worst of all, there was the obviously identifiable gruesome death fodder. By this I mean, the characters that you know are destined to die because they are so written that way. Spoiler and hint: If your character is introduced as a main character3/4 of the way through the film… things don’t bode well for you…

On a positive note, the character’s that were developed from the beginning were effective and capable of empathy from a viewer. I think this is where someone like Stephen J. Cannell excels at writing anything. He thinks long term. This could have been the pilot for his new whiz-bang super TV show, and he writes the characters with back stories that make a viewer want to invest in them. You have Peter, the ex-doctor who’s thrown it all away to run a bed and breakfast in the country; his girlfriend Darcy who is too tied to her paralegal job to heed love’s call and join him; Pamela who’s an imaginative and loveable little girl; and Cole, Peter’s no-good, dead head, rock and roll friend(who has the best line in the movie - - when explaining that he needs some money, he professes how great everything is, but…”there IS an ant in the afterbirth, though…”).

And finally, you have Star, the ex-stripper who spends the whole movie looking hot as hell, claiming she’s more than a pretty face and a smoking body. She identifies hummingbirds by their Latin name, reads a book on bird biology, and does everything to tell everybody she’s smart and not just some drop dead gorgeous stripper. Of course, she makes a point of hitting on every guy in the B&B and she IS the only character who actually gets naked when she sleeps with someone ‘because she’s scared’. (Picture in your mind, if you will, Doctor Zombie rolling his undead eyes.)

This development though, was a bit tiresome after a while. Truth be told, I’m a horror fan and I want to get to the horror. And there are some great horror moments. For instance, Doctor Zombie was honestly surprised by the first instance in any horror movie that - at least I can remember – where someone gets their penis severed and then you actually SEE IT. The penis that is. Bravo on having the cajones (no pun intended!) to commit to such an in your face effect. Like I said before, the wood chipper scene was great, and the other scenes aren’t too bad.

And The Tooth Fairy wasn’t really that scary. I suppose to a child she would be, but really it’s just a scary woman running around with an axe. (This isn’t really a spoiler, you see her within the first two minutes of the movie.) And the end is where the badness really ratchets up; suffice it to say I’m sure you have the means to kill the spooky, evil Tooth Fairy witch in your own garage. And remember I said it had several stereotypical slasher clichés? Watch for the oh so original glimpse of the allegedly dead Tooth Fairy in the bed & breakfast window as the survivors drive away at the end! “What?!? Huh?!? I thought… they killed… oh horrors! You mean she might not be dead?!?” (Imagine more rolled eyes, dear readers…)

Finally, I’d like to mention the one big name star in the film was PJ Soles (Lynda from the original Halloween). There is something to be said for making a career doing small bit parts solely because you were in one of the greatest horror flicks of all time. Hell, if I’d lucked into a role that made me immortal, I’d ride the wave as long as I could. There’s something honorable in being like PJ Soles, or Cane Hodder, or Michael Berryman. The only thing I’d say to these sort of actors though, is BE SELECTIVE. PJ’s character, the crazy neighbor Mrs. McDonald, has two minutes of screen time where she shows up out of nowhere, spouts a gloom and doom warning about the evil witch Tooth Fairy(!) and tells the main characters how to kill it. It’s like the writers wrote themselves into the corner, found out the casting department had cast PJ, and quickly made up a Deus Ex Machine in her charcter. At least PJ’s still getting paid. I just hope it’s more than scale.

So, overall… The Tooth Fairy was a good movie with some great character development and some good gore. It was a bit long and lost some steam at the end, but it still wasn’t bad. If you go into it expecting typical straight to video badness, you will be pleasantly surprised. There is an expectation from certain horror fans that their movies follow set rules, and if you’re that sort of fan you won’t be disappointed. And, if you’re not necessarily a fan, but like to scare your significant other as you cuddle on the couch with all the lights out, it will suit your purposes as well…

Doctor Zombie’s Rating: 3 out of 5 Chomped Brains

1 comment:

Phronk said...

Sounds alright. Very cool that they sent you a copy to review. Hey Anchor Bay, if you're looking for more people to send free movies too, I'm always available. :)

It seems like part of the fun with movies like that is their plethora of cliches and predictability. Seeing the shallow death fodder character show up and saying "oh, he ain't gonna last long" is one of the joys of horror movies. Along with hot ex-strippers. I'll have to give this one a rent when the girlfriend isn't around.

Regarding severed penises, I just happened to have watched Beyond Reanimator a few days ago, which also features a severed penis. I won't give anything away if you haven't seen it, but it goes "beyond" just being severed. There's also lots of other creative gore in that movie (though not much plot or interesting characters to pull it together...except Jeffrey Combs, obviously). But anyway, Tooth Fairy isn't the only movie with chopped off willies.