Family Comedy/Fantasy | rated PG (L) | starring Dwayne Johnson, Stephen Merchant, Ashley Judd, Julie Andrews | 1:41 mins
Hockey player Derek Thompson (Dwayne Johnson), known as The Tooth Fairy for his jaw-breaking body checks on the ice, nearly tells his girlfriend’s (Ashley Judd) daughter that there is no real fairy that will take her baby tooth and leave her money under her pillow at night. This act summons him to a magical Tooth Fairy factory in which he is punished for his imagination-killing transgression by being saddled with a pair of wings and sentenced to be a tooth fairy for the next few weeks. He sprouts wings when the tooth is lost – which puts a serious cramp on his love and professional life – and, using various magical tricks like shrinking and invisibility, must sneak into houses and snatch the tooth.
I don’t even know where to begin with this one, so why not start at the beginning. Few movies right off their mark announce the pain that is about to be inflicted on the audience quite like this one. The title’s painful double-entendre gets thrown in our face with a slow motion CGI tooth flying out of the head of a hockey player Derek just put through some glass and the fans scramble to catch it like a fowl ball. Derek sits in his reclining thrown inside the penalty box (Johnson, unable to say no to any family film, with a smarmy grin on his face) and a few seconds later is a jerk to the children of a girlfriend who can clearly do better than a guy with the 10 pounds of baggage this one has. As a fantasy film, as a family film, even as a children’s movie, Tooth Fairy is complete and utter junk.
When the time comes for Jerk Derek to learn the error of his ways and he is whisked off to Fairy Central the movie really starts to not make sense, compounded by a series of cameos from Billy Crystal, Brandon T. Jackson and Seth MacFarlane as fairies that are surely to bring any of their fans to tears of embarassment. The only one who retains any shred of dignity here is Stephen Merchant (Extras) as Tracy (cue the girl’s name jokes), Derek’s case worker with a desire for wings that borders on a fetish. Merchant’s tall stature is a perfect fit for someone to go toe-to-toe with The Rock and make the former wrestler look small. Merchant’s back and forth with Johnson is the closest thing in the movie that gets in the same universe as a laugh.
I just can’t imagine how Tooth Fairy was pitched to a studio. It sounds more like something pitched by a group class clown at a happy hour. I can see it being heralded as creative and original by a group of pretentious snobs who have never seen a modern movie or TV show to make the guy feel good and this false praise emboldened a bad idea to turn into an even worse movie. A movie that seems more like a movie that would be inside another movie or TV show as a satirical example of a bad movie.
I’m all for a silly, nonsensical premise, particuarly in a fantasy family film. But Tooth Fairy constantly seems to be tangled up in the logic of the universe it’s trying to create. The result is a premise that collapses like a house of cards at the tiniest thought. Like that wacky judge’s order in Seinfeld’s show-within-the-show “Jerry”, Derek is sentenced to be the tooth fairy. But if Tooth Fairies are real why do Tooth Fairies need to recruit people to play them to convince children that they exist for the purpose of keeping a child’s imagination alive. You imagine something that isn’t real. And if they want people to believe in them why go to such great lengths with invisibility spray and shrinking paste to sneak into the house and not be detected. There is a fun clever, story built in there somewhere, but what we are given here is so convoluted and full of holes it is enough to melt your mind.
There is a bizarre creepy undercurrent to this movie. It probably seemed like a nice plot hole filler on paper, but to actually see Stephen Merchant ride out on a zamboni with a giant laser canon and zap people’s memories away like a mad scientist is just creepy. Merchant is also the subject of a bizarre lustful sequence where he stares at the wings of other fairies in envy as if seeing his true love for the first time. And the movie is filled with horribly miscalculated images like that. If you can get past Johnson’s mugging and the bad special effects and the tortured fantasy logic and the mishandled metaphors about dreams deferred, there is a tacked-on stepfather storyline that is just as half-thought-out and feels completely token. With dad mysteriously out of the picture, Derek has a completely artificial and oddly resentful relationship with his girlfriend and her children, building them up, tearing them down and then caring for them whenever the story requires it. Messing up and making the world’s most half-assed apology. Why would she put up with it?
And that’s not even the real question. The real question is what the hell are these fairies doing with children’s teeth? We see Derek take one right out of the hands of the child’s father and we see Julie Andrews put them in small glass cases that are whisked away by one of her lackies. But why? So yeah, there is a fun, clever story tucked away somewhere in Tooth Fairy. But it’s not this family film abomination – it’s a horror movie.
(and it’s not Darkness Falls)