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The Tooth Fairy

(editor's note: Matt Sameck actually reviewed this upon its release, filed the review, but it never got uploaded due to my mistake. So NOW, upon its DVD release, the time is right to try again.)

You've got to hand it to Dwayne Johnson. No other wrestler in memory has managed to parlay a hugely successful pro wrestling job into what could be considered at least a solid B-list movie career. (And I mean that as a compliment.)

Either by making interesting choices (Southland Tales), or through sheer force of charisma (The Rundown, The Race to Witch Mountain) he's managed to make a small stable of movies that are at least not horrible. The new family vehicle The Tooth Fairy continues Johnson's streak in that it leans on his charisma to create a movie that's barely watchable, but exceedingly forgettable.

The Tooth Fairy follows minor-league hockey player Derek Thompson (Dwayne Johnson), who has been nicknamed "The Tooth Fairy" for his proclivity to knock around players from the other team instead of trying to score. After discouraging the dreams of a young fan and nearly telling his girlfriend's daughter that there is no actual tooth fairy, he's sentenced by a fairy godmother of sorts (Julie Andrews) to serve as a tooth fairy for two weeks under the supervision of wingless fairy caseworker, Tracy (Stephen Merchant, or the tallest, goofiest looking brit ever), so he can learn a lesson about the importance of dreams. (Somehow.)

There's no getting around the fact that The Tooth Fairy is a broad and kid-centered comedy that uses very familiar jokes. After all, there's only so much merit you can give to any movie that attempts to milk the comic value of putting "The Rock" in a tutu and fairy wings and then rocketing tennis balls at him while he dangles in the air a few scenes later. (I mean, that's funny, right? Right?) There's not anything new about the plot or the script except that Dwayne Johnson is the one going through the motions this time as opposed to anyone else.

Johnson's work is a double-edged sword of sorts for this movie. On one hand, he's working overtime to use his charm to keep the overused kiddie material afloat. On the other hand, he's obviously working overtime to keep the overused kiddie material afloat. Despite how well he can play the heel-with-a-heart-of-gold role, the fact is he's dancing the overused corpse of a old joke across the screen. It may be a little amusing, but it's mostly sad.

Though the film uses the conceit of landing Derek Thompson in fairy-land to stampede the familiar territory of following your dreams, the plot seems to have no direct connection to the movie's theme. However, the movie is effective if you're susceptible to its charms. Even if Thompson's sentence in fairy land ends up having no apparent bearing on the moral lesson he is to learn, that doesn't keep the movie from effectively playing on your emotions in ways that are typical for the "hold on to your dreams" movie trope. I guarantee that you won't want to crush anyone's unrealistic dreams and expectations for at least two hours afterwards.

The movie has some interesting cameo appearances. Billy Crystal appears as Jerry, a fairy combination of Miracle Max and Q who has a strange penchant for the using word "dude" and abusing amnesia dust. While his appearance is extremely light, it does give you a reminder of how funny Crystal is capable of being when he wants to be. Seth McFarlane also makes a brief appearance as a black-market fairy supplies dealer and shows his continued ability to be effortlessly sleazy despite his boyish looks.

One of my tests for kids' movies is whether you could watch the movie everyday and not become annoyed quickly. In that respect The Tooth Fairy definitely fails. Dwayne Johnson works hard to make the movie watchable, but his efforts are obvious and one-note. The movie is tired, predictable, well worn, and filled with kiddie humor, but it is effective at what it sets out to do, even if that goal is ridiculously tepid. It's stupid, but it's easily-forgotten Disney-class stupid, which isn't quite as bad.

Matt Sameck

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