TOOTH FAIRY, 2010
A bad deed on the part of a tough minor-league hockey player (Johnson) results in an unusual sentence: He must serve one week as a real-life tooth fairy.
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REVIEW: By their nature children's films are for children, not adults, so judging them on their face isn't exactly useful. At the same time, they're films being made adults so how much they have in common with--or can actually reach--children is something of an open question. (Though still better than children's films made children, and if you've seen "The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl" you know what I'm talking about). At best you can get something that reaches out to everyone, working on multiple levels; truly a film for the whole family. More often, though, you get something like "Tooth Fairy."
Derek Thomas (Dwayne Johnson) is an almost-was. A talented hockey player who ended up in the minor leagues after an injury and decided it was easier to stay there. He's a man who's lost all faith in hope, who refuses to dream big so that he won't ever be disappointed. But when he tries to pass that particularly life lesson on to his girlfriend's (Ashley Judd) children, the universe decides he's the one who needs a lesson. A lesson that comes with wings and tights as he is sentenced to two weeks hard duty as an actual tooth fairy.
It sounds, actually, a lot like the plot for the "Santa Clause" films, which probably explains why the studio has brought on "Santa Clause 2 & 3" director Michael Lembeck and his gentler than a 60s era sitcom sense of humor. Lembeck has yet to a make film better than boorish and his last try at this particular genre produced one of the more annoying movies of the past decade.
Johnson has actually gotten quite good at light comedy, or at least at playing the straight man in light comedy though he does at least get to attempt to develop a personality. He's quite ably aided--on the fairy side--by Ricky Gervais' sidekick Stephen Merchant (trading up to be Johnson's sidekick) and a feisty Julie Andrews.
There are actually quite a few moments of genuine humor to be found in "Tooth Fairy," particularly whenever Johnson and Merchant are allowed to go on for a bit, and a conversation about the possible dangers of fairies which is genuinely inspired.
But there's quite a bit more that is silly at best and out and out annoying at worst (generally embodied by Billy Crystal here). And when the story retreats back to the mundane world it becomes just that. The children have been picked seemingly for mawkishness, while Ashley Judd is stuck in the kind of role that actresses take when they can get anything else.
As Derek gets better and better at his duties he begins to reassess the nature of dreams and his relationships with Tracey, with his girlfriend's children and with himself and the potential hockey career he could have had.
For what it is, "Tooth Fairy" is probably a success; it's not particularly smart or original but it doesn't care to be. It's not trying to be more than it needs to, to entertain it's target audience and certainly doesn't care if anyone else is watching it or not. That doesn't offer much hope to anyone else, but children should be entertained for at least a little while and that is probably enough for a lot of people.