Just as it’s no mystery why
people parents would take their children to a film as obviously bland and insulting to their intelligence as Tooth Fairy (they think they want to see it; and really, need there be more of a mandate?), it’s plain to see why 20th Century Fox dumped the film in January, a month that Hollywood studios use to bury their generic duds. Tooth Fairy is one in an ever-growing string of unmemorable children’s vehicles Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has starred in since his delightfully schizophrenic performance in Richard Kelly’s criminally underrated and delightfully unsound Southland Tales showed that he could manically over-emote and look good while doing it. Johnson has, after all, made a career out of blowing hot-and-cold, squinting and puffing out his chest one minute and then taking the bite out of his bark by balking like a little girl with a fresh bee sting the next.
Southland Tales knowingly made use of that disconnect between his tough guy and his more shrill, effeminate personalities even before the Rock began his slew of toxic kiddy flicks. As a showcase of the total disconnect between the Rock’s past and future career, Kelly’s supposedly apocalyptic “sophomore slump” is appropriately prescient, though only accidentally. Similarly, if you really must go with children to see this film or just want to waste your time and money because you really feel masochistic, you can look at Tooth Fairy as an admittedly incoherent meta-commentary on the downward spiral the actor’s career has taken since then.
The modestly charming ex-wrestler plays Derek, an aging minor league hockey player now more famous for knocking the teeth out of other players than for his waning skills. After he callously tells his new lady-friend Carly’s (Ashley Judd) young daughter Tess (Destiny Whitlock) that there’s no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, he’s forced by a surprisingly sprightly bureaucracy of tutu and leotard-wearing tooth fairies to collect molars for two weeks as punishment. To get out of his professional and romantic rut, Derek has to learn how to inspire others, specifically Carly’s middle-school aged son Randy (Chase Ellison), whose guitar-playing makes him too emo to function socially at school, and Tracy (Stephen Merchant), his jittery, wingless mentor at the tooth fairy office. This means he has to get over Randy’s initial preteen disdain for him as a new authority figure and Tracy’s prissy fits of pouting whenever Derek hates on the serotonin-rich world of fairies (Warning: the word “fairy” is used so liberally in the film that you will snigger several times in spite of yourself at its derogatory connotations; it’s one of the only funny things in the film and it’s not even intentional.) In other words, Derek/the Rock has to convince other people that he’s the can-do macho that his hulking physique and toothy knowing smile has always made him out to be. Tutu be damned, the man just wants to be liked. So why can’t he catch a break?
As far as Tooth Fairy is concerned, the answer is again fairly obvious: the film’s supporting cast delivers the only memorable material in the film. Julie Andrews has one good scene when she admonishes Derek for his cruel disbelief in the power of dreams or some such other fluffy, forgettable nonsense, and Billy Crystal also has a good one when he’s showing off all the weird gizmos and drugs at Derek’s disposal when he’s stealing teeth and leaving benjamins (apparently kids now get a whole dollar for a tooth; it seems that the recession hasn’t hit the imaginary bureaucracies very hard). You read right: the “amnesia dust” and “shrink paste” Derek’s given are abused and joked about as if they were comparable to pot. These illogically kid-friendly primers for Cheech and Chong are truly out of place, as in the scene where Crystal wistfully describes using shrink paste to dip his feet in an inkwell and leave little black footprints all over his wife’s sleeping body. The Rock is fine as always and he turns in another admirably bipolar display of tough-guy preening and shrewish histrionics. But considering that the best thing in his latest film is a joke about how Billy Crystal lets his freak flag fly when he’s high on paste and indulges his gigantism fetish, it’s painfully apparent that there’s just no rehabilitating this stinker.