Dwayne Johnson doesn’t go by “The Rock” anymore, and is increasingly turning into Hollywood’s family movie heavyweight. In his latest outing, “Tooth Fairy,” Johnson plays former NHL star Derek Thompon, who’s been stuck back in the minors for years following an injury. He’s nicknamed “The Tooth Fairy” because of his penchant for knocking the teeth out of opposing players. After he discourages a young boy’s dreams of hockey stardom while signing autographs, he’s sentenced to a week as a real tooth fairy, wings and all.
The wings are not particularly realistic-looking, but one sight of “The Rock” in a tutu ought to be enough to have kids rolling in the aisles.
The ruling matriarch of Fairyland is played by Julie Andrews, who could have phoned her performance for this part in, and probably did. Nonetheless, her presence in the movie gives it a certain gravitas and she’s particularly funny while livid after one of Derek’s tooth recovery missions amounts to a home invasion, overdosing an entire family, dog included, with Amnesia Dust.
Sephen Merchant, who came to prominence opposite Ricky Gervais on the UK version of “The Office,” plays Tracy, Derek’s officious caseworker who has “wing envy.” The casting of the tall, geeky Merchant opposite Johnson, who makes Superman look like a 98 pound weakling, may be an obvious sight gag, but an effective one. An unbilled Billy Crystal plays Jerry, the “Q” of Fairyland, who outfits Derek with the magical tools of the tooth fairy trade, as pretty much the same character he played in “The Princess Bride.”
But it’s Johnson’s undeniable charisma that makes the movie. The script, by TV veterans Lowell Ganz (“Happy Days”) and Babaloo Mandel, and Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia (“Murphy Brown,” “3rd Rock From the Sun”) and Randi Mayem Singer (“Jack & Jill,” “Mrs. Doubtfire”) is likeable but predictable and the movie’s casting was critical. Johnson is an Arnold Schwarzenegger with more personality and the most dazzlingly white, movie star smile this side of Tom Cruise. He and thriller-queen Ashley Judd, who plays his unlikely, sophisticated, single mom girlfriend, have undeniable chemistry.
Michael Lembeck’s direction is not innovative and some of the dialogue scenes were edited with a meat cleaver and staple gun. However, he milks the comedy for all its worth.
British cinematographer David Tattersall, one of the new breed who moves back and forth between film and digital cinematography, does a competent job. He ought to. His resume includes blockbusters like “Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace,” “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” “Star Wars: Episode Two: Revenge of the Sith,” “Con Air,” the James Bond movie “Die Another Day,” “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,” “Speed Racer,” “Next,” and the remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” This was probably easier.
“Tooth Fairy” is a movie that dares you to dislike it. You’ll lose.