Tooth Fairy (2010): United States – directed by Michael Lembeck
Rated PG by the MPAAn – contains some crudeness and slapstick comedy
Tooth Fairy sounds like your standard Disney movie: man is mean, gets turned into some sort of creature, then learns his lesson and is happy. Except that Tooth Fairy is not a Disney movie, and the entire proceedings contain a certain charm that generally succeeds in shining through the fluff.
Dwayne Johnson plays Derek Thompson, a washed-up former pro hockey player. Due to a shoulder injury from which he never recovered, Thompson spends his time with a minor league team, specializing in knocking out opponent’s teeth. This has earned him the nickname “Tooth Fairy.” As his coach points out at one point, he’s a side-show attraction for the hockey team, something to fill the seats.
His personal life is slightly better. He’s dating Carly (Ashley Judd), a mother of two. He finds it easier to bond with her daughter, Tess (Destiny Whitlock) than with her son Randy (Chase Ellison). Unfortunately, one night during a poker game he steals Tess’s tooth money from under her pillow to gamble with, and when she wakes up and finds her tooth missing and no money left behind, he almost tells her the tooth fairy does not exist.
For his sins he is granted a terrible dream. He is sent to Fairy Land where case worker Tracy (Stephen Merchant, co-creator with Ricky Gervais of “The Office”) is given the task of turning him into a tooth fairy. Thompson isn’t too pleased with this idea, and the attention of the Fairy Godmother (Julie Andrews) to smooth things out. Thompson soon discovers that he has been given a two week sentence as a result of disseminating information detrimental to the magical world.
Once Thompson wakes up he is relieved, but his worst fears are realized when his wings sprout again as he’s on a date with Carly. His first assignment has come in. As the movie progresses he finds it increasingly difficult to balance his tooth fairy duties with taking care of the family he’s dating and being a hockey player. These difficulties, however, allow him to grow and learn some lessons before the requisite happy ending.
I realize this sounds schmaltzy, and it is. It is a silly premise filled with silly moments, but, for what it is, it works. Johnson is convincing as Thompson in all but the serious dramatic scenes, and the rest of the cast ranges from adequate to “how did they get him/her in this movie?” Julie Andrews lends an air of credibility and authority to her role, and cameos by Billy Crystal as the fairy gadget-master and Seth McFarlane as a black market fairy supply dealer are quite funny. My favorite, however, was the 6’7” Merchant as the case worker. This is Merchant’s first non-cameo role in a feature film (like he had in The Invention of Lying [review here]), and the mannerisms and acting style he brings from his work writing on “The Office” and “Extras” are hilarious.
This is a generally positive movie, too, with most of the humorous moments not coming at the expense of other characters. The comedy is generally derived from the ridiculous situations in which the characters find themselves. The film also contains several positive values that would make it a worthwhile film to watch with the whole family. There’s enough physical comedy to keep kids entertained, and enough adult (though not raunchy) jokes to keep parents engaged. Billy Crystal’s scene will particularly amuse older viewers.
I enjoyed the film, generally speaking. It is a light film, with not much staying power, but it did make me laugh. It succeeds in what it sets out to do and ends up being a quality family film. It’s not a masterpiece, is not amazingly well-made, and isn’t particularly memorable, but you could do much worse looking for a film that most of the family will enjoy.