The fact that this is the fifth movie that packages and force-feeds us the exact same formula might suggest to many that the Final Destination series just MIGHT be getting "a little bit Long in the Tooth"!
No, No, No, No, No, No, No! Dracula is "a little bit Long in the Tooth"! The Megalodon is "a little bit Long in the Tooth"! The Saber-Toothed Tiger... is "a little bit Long in the Tooth"! The African Bull Elephant is "a little bit Long in the Tooth"! Folks... this fifth installment of the series that began with 2000's Final Destination proves that there is such a thing as teeth the approximate length of King Kong's Viagra-Treated Femur!
For those of you also-ran hangers-on who haven't yet seen any of these flicks, SPOILER WARNING, the forlorn, foretelling formula goes a little something... Like THIS:
A disaster happens in which a veritable butt-load of people meet their violent ends in wicked ways. Then time rewinds and the whole thing turns out to be nothing more than a gift-wrapped, super-silly premonition by one of the quickly-killed, who then gets the Eff-You-See-Kay off of the plane, highway, roller coaster, speedway, bridge, you get the idea, along with a gaggle of also-ran hangers-on (like you) just before, in real life, the tragedy actually takes place. Death has been Cheated, so Death comes back after the survivors and takes them one by one in the ornery and odorous order that they would have died in. If the similarities between the films aren't clear enough as they stand, the ostensible main character must figure out the formula for himself, tell everybody, get scared by it and detail the whole thing for the audience before it actually happens.
Yes, Final Destination, as a series, repeatedly tells us exactly what it intends to do and then does it. You could play Mad Libs with this formula... and I'm guessing writer Eric Heisserer did exactly that when he wrote Final Destination 5! In short, the only surprises are in just how the inevitable happens in these plots, not at ALL in the WHAT. We know the what... we got it, we get it... but somehow we (or, at least, I) keep forking over our dollars and cents each time.
In short... you'll have just as many surprises actually playing Mad Libs!
This goofy time around, we get a company retreat led by ass hat boss David Koechner. You've seen his bald mug in a few things, especially if you watched early episodes of the American version of The Office, where he worked for a paper company. Here he plays against type by portraying a guy who works for a paper company. Bet I can predict what's in Eric Heisserer's DVR, man. There's even a tiny plot point about corporate closing down their branch. Brilliant!
Anyway... about that time the premonition-designate du jour, Sam Lawton (played by non-actor Nicholas D'Agosto) has a vision that the chitty-chitty bang-bang charter bus he and his company are on are about to be involved in the most horrendous Bridge Collapse since The Mothman Prophecies!
Actually, involvement by the Mothman might explain a lot. But I digress.
As we've seen... four times before this time, Sammy leaves the scene of the accident before it happens along with his (erstwhile ex-)Girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell), his bossy buddy Peter (Miles Fisher... more Eyebrows, now, than man, twisted and evil), sympathetic factory pal Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta), intern and gymnast(!) Candice (Ellen Wroe), the super hot cross between Librarian and Punk Chick Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, whom I would by a HOUSE for based on looks alone) and the pathetic, fat-fuck mega-nerd in tech support, who somehow fancies himself a ladies man named Isaac (P.J. Byrne... yawn).
And, yes, yes, as has been established multiple times before, because the Sam-Grand-Slam (who is also a gourmet chef as well as paper salesman... busy-ass guy) boldly announced the tragedy before the proverbial shit hit the fan, the Feds (led by Courtney B. Vance's Agent Block) take more than a passing interest in the vague possibility that Al-Samir might be responsible for the whole ugly-ass mess!
You want to hear another overused series cliche? In each flaky film in the franchise, the lead steed has agreed that there is SOME strange one way that they can all cheat death once again and, thus, survive the way they're all pretty horkin' positive they all deserve to. This one pops up in SPADES, true believers, and gives us the closest thing the film can muster to an actual valid unique plot point. One more welcome sighting in the striking saga of the surreal? An appearance by one Coroner William Bludworth as played by the always brilliant Tony Todd!
Quick side note... When the fourth film in the series (which attempted to fool the audience by going un-numbered, thus implying that the so-named "The Final Destination" would be the last one) was in pre-production, New Line Cinema declined to give the great Maestro Todd his acting asking price and passed on his inclusion in a Final Destination flick for the first (and thus far ONLY) time. So Tony Todd lent his voice to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which, in spite of being an absolutely terrible movie, managed to make more money than the United States Government's Debt Ceiling. Thus, Tony Todd has the last (chilling) laugh and makes a roaring comeback here. And the man is great. His is, perhaps, the one really flawless part of this entire picture! Good for New Line and Warner Bros. for realizing the one really indispensible puzzle piece in this sagging saga!
As for the rest of the film? It's been done before... four times before this one. In each film we get the chilling sequences where the story points, shouts and beckons toward the most obvious way the next person is to die, but pulls the rug out from under us and kills the sour soul in some completely different, faux-surprise way. More often than not, this comes off as a mildly-nuanced variation of a death scene we've seen in the previous flicks in this saga. If these aren't readily obvious to you, the opening credits give us all CGI hints at what has come before and what is yet to come, while the closing credits show us an actual MONTAGE of the previous death scenes. It's almost as if they're daring us to demand our ticket prices back, by SHOWING us that they've ripped themselves (and us) off. Holy fucking shit!
However, while this is, in many ways, the completely repetitive snooze fest that it could have (and should have) been, there's something about the way the cast and crew (as led by director Steven Quale) amp up the suspense and red-herrings in each build-up that still causes the old wringing of hands and that familiar jumping in the seats. Make no mistake, there is suspense here.
It's just too bad that this is suspense that we've already felt before.
At the risk of embracing the central conceit of Final Destination 3, this film series is much akin to your favorite ever Roller Coaster! You know the one. As soon as you and your friends walk into the park you say "I'm not leaving until I ride Final Destination, you guys!" You know the twists, you know the turns, you know the music they play on the ride. Hell, you even know that the Orange car has louder music than the Green car. You know when you're about to be scared and you know when the twists and loops are coming... but you simply do not care... you love the ride, so you brave that winding queue and strap yourself in, regardless of the fact that this is the same old same old and you've been there before and done it many times.
That is Final Destination as a series. You know it, the rest of the audience knows it, I figured it out about the fifth time I watched Final Destination 2 (and I'm not the sharpest tack in the cork board) and, most assuredly, New Line Cinema knows this... and that's why these films keep coming out! As my daughter tenaciously stated while the credits rolled, "This is my Guilty Pleasure series!" Indeed it is. And it sure as hell beats most of the churned out, pasty, yawn-inspiring broken garden gnomes that formulate the usual gang of idiotic Bad Horror Remakes and Bad Horror Sequels. That said...
Final Destination 5 still sucks, is derivative, and predictable and can't transcend its cheese to rise above Two and one half Stars out of Five! It's saving grace is Tony Todd's always-excellent performance and a Surprise Twist Ending that, in spite of the hints, one would be hard-pressed to really see coming. Even so... this isn't what you'd call an original film... or a terribly good one. Then again, you might also have your favorite roller coaster... it might not be the best one on Earth, but you want to ride it every time you come to the park. Guilty Pleasure or not, Long in the Tooth or not, here it is, folks... watch it in 3-D, as the many plot contrivances and unrealistic gags are designed for that format, even more than this review is designed to end with the words "See You In The Next Reel"!