With Dwayne Johnson, Julie Andrews, Ashley Judd. Rated PG for mild language, some rude humor and sports action. 101 minutes.
No one will confuse Dwayne Johnson, the ex-wrestler once known as “The Rock,” with Laurence Olivier; he is a personality and a very likable one at that. In comic roles he conveys a sense of fun and enjoyment, not unlike Jackie Chan. He could have a long career ahead of him…but not if he keeps turning out junk like TOOTH FAIRY.
Johnson plays Derek, a former pro hockey player now in the minors where he’s known as “The Tooth Fairy” because his body checks often lead to dental damage. He is improbably romancing a single mom played by Ashley Judd who is absurdly wasted in the role. When Derek almost tells her young daughter there’s no tooth fairy, he finds himself summoned before the head Fairy herself (Julie Andrews) who gives him two weeks of fairy duty so he can learn the power of hopes and dreams and fantasies. While we can all use hope and dreams, is the world really a poorer place because most adults don’t believe in fairies and unicorns? This movie would have us believe so.
The bulk of the movie is Derek clumsily performing his tasks with the help of his “case worker” Tracy (Stephen Merchant). Tracy is either hilarious and adorable or the most annoying character this side of Jar Jar Binks. Where you come out will depend on whether you measure your age in single digits or not.
Popping up in a cameo, for no discernible reason, is Billy Crystal as this movie’s version of James Bond’s Q. He gives Derek invisibility spray, shrinking paste, amnesia powder, and hard candies that make the person bark like a dog. The comic possibilities seem endless, don’t they?
In fact, as the film plods along to its inevitable happy ending, we get one of those montages where days and weeks of effort are compressed into minutes. The filmmakers seem to feel that showing one of these would be a cliché so they offer three of them intercut: Derek trying to regain his hockey skills, Tracy trying to become a tooth fairy himself, and the older brother practicing on a guitar. It’s about exciting as that summary sounds.
While undemanding youngsters might have fun, and the message of being true to your dreams seems good, the film also has a nasty authoritarian undertone that ought to rankle. Dwayne disses the tooth fairy and therefore is summarily judged and punished without even being given the chance to fully defend himself. He’s warned if he doesn’t comply his sentence will be extended. Perhaps the really bad fairies get sent to Guantanamo.
“Tooth Fairy” is one of those disposable family entertainments that will no doubt be a video and cable staple for some time to come. Parents might want to bring along some dental floss. It’ll give you something constructive to do while waiting for the picture to end.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.