The film career of Dwayne Johnson a.k.a. The Rock is a bit of a mystery. He is charismatic, well known, talented but what he isn’t is a movie star. From his humble beginnings as an action wannabe in “The Mummy Returns” and “The Rundown” to his stab at mainstream success in “Be Cool” and art house cred in “Southland Tales” to his most recent incarnation as a children’s entertainer he always seems to be on the cusp of a real, sustainable a-list movie career, but never seems to be able to get over the final fame hurdle. His movies haven’t been consistent quality wise or commercially—“Southland Tales” cost 17 million and only made 273K at the b.o.—and, I don’t think his latest, “Tooth Fairy”, is going to do much to improve that situation.
Johnson is Derek Thompson, a former big league hockey star now playing for the Lansing, Michigan Ice Wolves. He’s the team’s enforcer, a hip checking bad boy knick named The Tooth Fairy for his habit of leaving his opponents with a mouth full of bloody Chiclets. After telling his girlfriend’s daughter that the tooth fairy doesn’t really exist he receives a summons from the Department of Dissemination of Disbelief and is sentenced to two weeks as a real tooth fairy as punishment for crushing kid’s dreams. Adapting to the wings and newfound special powers he comes to realize the importance of dreams and aspirations.
Originally titled “Sweet Tooth,” the script for “Tooth Fairy” has been kicking around Hollywood since the early nineties and was long rumored to be a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The premise was slightly different, but the jokes would have been about the same: squeeze a large man into a pink tutu and let the hilarity begin. Except that there isn’t much hilarity to be had.
Old pros Billy Crystal and Julie Andrews—who plays the Fairy Godmother as a cross between Mary Poppins and Judge Judy—work the material for all it is worth, but aside from the odd giggle and Fairy pun—Fairy Krishna’s anyone?—this is a one joke movie that gets most of its mileage out of the image of a tough guy wrestler wearing gossamer wings.
It is, in many respects a sillier version of Dwayne Johnson’s biggest hit, “The Game Plan,” a movie about a sports star who learns to access his softer side, but “Tooth Fairy” is too soft. Johnson has become too kid friendly. He’s now just a big teddy bear, with a range of expression that wouldn’t be out of place in an English pantomime. I know kids enjoy bigger than life characters like Johnson. He’s kind of a real life super hero, but I’m not sure the acting career he imagined for himself when he was working with directors like F. Gary Gray and Richard Kelly would involve prancing about in a pink tutu for the delight of small kids.
It’s a living, but it’s not am a-list career. Somebody has to learn how to harness Johnson’s natural charisma and talent and finally put him in a good movie!