To call Tooth Fairy a bad film is like calling star Dwayne Johnson a big guy. Both statements are accurate, but neither actually conveys the degree to which they are true. Dwayne Johnson isn’t just big, he’s huge. He looks as if he could crush a child’s skull with his bare hands. As for Tooth Fairy, it isn’t just bad, it’s unwatchable. It may not crush children’s skulls, but it will almost certainly turn their brains to sludge.
I can imagine producers pitching the film to studio executives thusly: “What if Dwayne Johnson … were THE TOOTH FAIRY!” After the rapturous laughter died down and all the tears of joy were wiped away, the execs would have handed over some giant bags of money with only one instruction: “Make sure it’s stupid!” OK, so that’s probably not what happened, but it seems realistic based on the final product. In reality, Tooth Fairy has been in development since 1992, going through numerous iterations before landing in the lap of Johnson and director Michael Lembeck. Regardless of the scenario that led to this version of the film, the picture reeks of bland Hollywood cynicism. There isn’t a shred of life or joy in this picture and even writing about how awful it is makes me sad for the state of cinema.
Even though “Dwayne Johnson as THE TOOTH FAIRY” is pretty much as close to a plot synopsis you can get, I’ll elaborate for tradition’s sake. Johnson plays Derek Thompson, a small-time ice hockey player who has given up on his dreams of playing for the big leagues. (Cut to executive boardroom. Exec 1: “So, Johnson will need to have a job that relates to teeth in some way.” Exec 2: “Dentist?” Exec 1: “Nah, not exciting enough.” Exec 2: “Ice Hockey player famous for knocking out opponents teeth, so much so, his actual nickname is The Tooth Fairy.” Exec 2: “Eh, close enough.”)
His girlfriend Carly (Ashley Judd) laments the fact that Derek can’t ever ask “what if?” Her son wants to be a famous rock star and her six-year-old daughter still believes in the tooth fairy. After almost destroying both of these dreams, Derek is summoned to the official offices of the Tooth Fairies (I suspect just the American branch). Fairy Godmother Lily (Julie Andrews) has decided to punish Derek for almost ruining the myth (or should that be ‘fact’) of the Tooth Fairies’ existence. She magic’s him up a pair of his own wings and he is sentenced to serve two weeks AS A TOOTH FAIRY! And as Derek learns, “the tooth hurts”! (Cut to executive boardroom. Exec 1: “The tooth hurts! Oh that is rich!” Exec 2: “I’m laughing already!”)
This film has five credited screenwriters, none of which I will shame by mentioning. The writers don’t just believe puns to be the highest form of humour; they seem to think it is the only form of communication possible. No one talks to anyone without inanely playing on the words ‘tooth’, ‘fairy’, ‘wings’, and for the film’s most bizarre exchange, ‘shoes’. As someone who takes great relish in devising pun-related titles for my reviews, even I was getting frustrated by the amateurish roundelay between characters. They don’t argue; they just pun at each other. With the screenwriters spending all of their time coming up with puns, they have left the script riddled with plot holes. For instance, it is never explained why tooth fairies need to collect teeth. Why is it so important that Derek get every last tooth? Later on we discover that the fairy world is going out of business, or some such rubbish. Well of course they are! Look at their model: Steal worthless teeth; leave valuable money. At what point does this become a profitable venture?
A rather liberal amount of ‘amnesia dust’ is sprinkled on characters to erase any incriminating memories of Derek dressed as a fairy. Amnesia dust? This is comically lazy screenwriting, perhaps only topped by the mother of all movie clichés: the Talent Show finale. (Cut to executive boardroom. Exec 1: “So, this movie about Tooth Fairies. Should we end in some fantastical location? Feature a fairy battle? Should Derek have to overcome some difficult task?” Exec 2: “Nah, just end it at a talent show.” Exec 1: “A talent show? What does that have to do with anything?” Exec 2: “Nothing. But it’s cheap, easy to write and it’s been done countless times before.” Exec 1: “You’re right. Aiming low is the way to go!”) You may think it’s petty of me to bring up these little foibles, but when added together they only go to prove how shoddy this project really is.
Dwayne Johnson is trying really hard, to no avail. I’ve seen him be funny in other films, and I hope he will be funny in future ones. He is not funny here. The Office co-writer/director Stephen Merchant makes a rather inauspicious cinematic debut as Derek’s case-worked Tracy, although he comes off relatively unscathed. The same cannot be said of Julie Andrews. They might as well have actually cut to her sitting at home, reading her lines over the phone. How many more times can she be hired to act regal and pass along sage advice?
The supreme, overwhelming laziness of this picture is almost enough to incense even the most placid child. Any kid, regardless of age and providing they had seen at least ONE movie prior, would be able to recognise the idiotic plot devices. Had I any children, I would rather look them dead in the eye and tell them there is no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or even Santa Claus, than have them watch this mind-numbing film. Sure, I might prematurely damage their precocious childhood fantasies. But at least they wouldn’t lose their faith in cinema.