Directed by Michael Lembeck
In fact, director Michael Lembeck cut his teeth on the “Santa Clause” sequels and presumably that was the movie’s biggest influence, as it’s essentially the same formula as that, but one that was done much better in movies like “Scrooged.” Those movies thrived on the fact that they were vehicles for comedians, while “Tooth Fairy” is based entirely around the premise of a hockey player (and former pro wrestler) dressed up like a tooth fairy. Most of the movie bounces between showing Derek adjusting to this role, trying to maintain his hockey career which is being overshadowed by a cocky younger player and keeping his girlfriend (Ashley Judd) happy by getting along with her two kids.
It’s a terrible role for Dwayne Johnson, something he seems well aware of, putting very little effort into it and barely mustering the enthusiasm of Adam Sandler when forced to down his humor to reach younger audiences with “Bedtime Stories” and “Click.” Johnson used to be a great heel back in his early wrestling days, but when his character is introduced, he’s trying so hard to be all charming and smiley, his “mean” moments aren’t very convincing. In that sense, it’s actually worse than “The Game Plan,” because at least Johnson tried to act natural in that, while here, he goes out of his way to ham it up and half-heartedly play every gag up for further yucks and rarely succeeding. In an attempt to add to the humor, Derek is given all sorts of magic trinkets to help him retrieve teeth from “amnesia powder” and invisibility spray to paste that allows him to shrink, mostly trying to squeeze in as many obvious sight gags out of the relatively flimsy ideas. Johnson isn’t suited to play up the comedy aspects of a role like this, so he resorts to being a caricature, nothing more or less.
Watching Ashley Judd in this movie, you can’t help but be embarrassed for her. Counter to Johnson, she tries too hard to hold back her own instincts as an actress any time she has a line, possibly to stay on his level. To be honest, the girlfriend role could have been played by any two-bit actress because it requires absolutely nothing in terms of acting skill. As hard as Judd tries to pretend she’s not overqualified for the role, she ends up overcompensating, and few will believe what they’re watching.
Ricky Gervais’ right hand man Stephen Merchant tries his best to bring some laughs to the table even if the material is even further below him than it is for Johnson, and he spends much of the movie doing what Gervais might have brought to his role. Wisely, the filmmakers have given him a larger part to try to distract from how bad Johnson is.
Really, the only remotely funny scene is an extended appearance by Billy Crystal as the Tooth Fairies’ equivalent of Bond’s Q, a single bit that’s funnier than anything else in the movie. Unfortunately, any good will Crystal brings to the movie with that scene is countered with an equally embarrassing end credits scene that does little to save the movie. The biggest shame is that the movie features the welcome return of the Julie Andrews to family fare, and she actually endures the experience relatively unscathed compared to the rest of the cast.
Eventually, “Tooth Fairy” spirals into a ridiculous number of subplots from a pointless and unresolved bit about black market “fairy magic” or Johnson trying to bond with his girlfriend’s teen son by boosting his morale to be a rock star. Just as the movie seems to have smoothly transitioned into this new territory, Derek hits a snag on his road to repentance and he’s suddenly even meaner to everyone around him than he was before and the movie tries to get dramatic. That lasts for roughly 10 minutes before we’re back to the hockey rink and Derek is once again trying to do right by his new role and trying to patch things up with his adopted family. Some of this might not have been so awful if the film’s overall cheese factor wasn’t being amplified by a schmaltzy score from George S. Clinton, another carryover from the “Santa Clause” sequels. What ultimately hurts the movie though is it’s unrelenting desire to offer something for everyone while delivering a movie that can’t possibly please anyone.
The Bottom Line: