The Tooth Fairy
What It Is
Primarily, The Tooth Fairy is an occasion for The Rock to wear a pink tutu. A thin premise for a movie—even a family movie that’s being dumped to theaters in January—it is somewhat buoyed by Dwayne Johnson’s considerable charms. He plays Derek Thompson, an almost-hockey star now serving as the “enforcer” for a team in Lansing, Michigan. Whenever he’s called out onto the ice, he’s supposed to knock down an opponent (“Find a dark jersey and hit it!” commands his coach). It’s not exactly an image to feel proud of, but Derek treats it as a job: on good nights, like the one that opens the movie, this violent encounter leads to the loss of the opponent’s tooth, hence, Derek’s nickname, “The Tooth Fairy.”
That nickname works another way, too. Derek is a doting father-figure to his girlfriend Carly’s (Ashley Judd) kids, 13-year-old Randy (Chase Ellison) and seven-year-old Tess (Destiny Grace Whitlock). When Tess loses a tooth one night, he reveals his own cynical view of the world (born of his own failed hockey ambitions), and almost tells her that there is no tooth fairy. Aside from Carly’s anger, he also has to suffer the indignity of becoming a tooth fairy, ordered to a two-week sentence by head fairy Lily (Julie Andrews) and mentored by a wry case-worker named Tracy (Stephen Merchant). Each night, he sprouts wings and is suddenly clothed in a pale-blue tunic (the first, mistaken costume, is the tutu). Because he’s not allowed to tell anyone what he’s doing, he has to hide and then escape his regular life in order to gather teeth from sleeping children, leaving carefully rolled dollars beneath their pillows. At the same time, Derek is also mentoring Randy (who aspires to be a rock star) and Mick (Ryan Scheckler), an 18-year-old hockey phenom just signed by his team. As you might guess, all this mentoring leads to some changed attitudes.
Why It’s Fun
Two words: The Rock. No matter that the movie is poorly paced (jumps from one world to another, Lansing to Fairyland, don’t make much sense) and erratically plotted (Derek seems incapable of planning his evenings to accommodate the nightly call from Fairyland). He makes effectively comic use of his very well-toned body and disarming smile, and once again (as in films like The Game Plan and Get Smart), his comic timing is excellent, especially when he’s working with Merchant as Tracy. Though their dialogue moves quickly, and some jokes are potentially obscure (Tracy insults Derek by telling him he should send his head “back to Easter Island”), they share a delightful rhythm.
Derek’s exchanges with Carly are less charming, as Judd is mostly called on to react, and not have much of a life of her own (a function underlined in a scene where Derek uses special fairy forgetting-dust to make her forget what he’s said just seconds before). But Johnson’s work with children—as in The Game Plan and Gridiron Gang—is consistently entertaining. He’s one of those rare adult performers who treat his younger costars with a sincere and quite wonderful respect. As Derek comes to terms with his new role—a sensitive purveyor of dreams instead of a brutal head-basher—he becomes increasingly attached to the kids, no longer "just being nice" to impress his girlfriend, as Randy first observes.
Who’s Going To Love It
The movie never really figures out how to match up the kids-focused antics with Derek’s own “coming of age.” Kids will like watching Derek learning to be a fairy, because he is so awkward. Older viewers will be entertained by the dialogue-based comedy, especially between Tracy and Derek. No one will believe the romance with Carly, but that might be okay, because it’s in place only to give Derek the opportunity to learn useful life lessons from her children.
What To Be Aware Of
The film features plenty of product placement (the hockey rink is introduced with a shot of a giant Coca Cola logo, then proceeds to show the usual advertising, Tess wears Nike pajamas), and the girls tend to do girly things (beauty makeovers) while the boys do typically masculine things (hockey, guitar-playing, Derek plays the drums). But the film wholly enjoys the idea of a former professional wrestler as a fairy, making clear that fairies are perceived as “feminine” (even effeminate, if not gay, like Tracy), which means Derek needs to get in touch with his “feminine side.” Here that’s a very good thing—it means he can believe in dreams again, and even better, encourage those around him, especially children, to believe in them as well.
Some of the comedy is slapsticky (Derek is thwacked in the crotch with a tennis ball), and the hockey scenes are violent, with bodies smashing into walls and each other. (As hockey is considered “family entertainment,” this is not surprising, but might be worth talking about.) Similarly, the movie makes good fun of the fact that a grown man (dressed in a fairy costume, but still...) is sneaking into children’s rooms (he’s frightened by a child’s perfectly sensible screaming at discovering a little man in his room, as well as by a cat who looks very large indeed).
A couple of characters show up for one raucous scene each, neither targeted at children. First, Jerry (Billy Crystal) shows Derek how to use the fairy "stuff" (invisible spray, shrinking paste, a wand), all the while cracking jokes that will go over many younger viewers’ heads. This goes double for a shorter scene featuring Seth MacFarlane as Ziggy, who sells Derek black market versions of this same "stuff," wherein Derek seems like a junkie angling for a fix.
3 out of 10
The Tooth Fairy
Director: Michael Lembeck
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ashley Judd, Julie Andrews, Chase Ellison, Billy Crystal
Studio: 20th Century Fox
US Premiere: January 22, 2010
UK Premiere: May 28, 2010