THE TOOTH FAIRY is one half a cute movie built on an absurd but competently executed premise, and one half a hackneyed family flick complete with cute kidlet, sullen teen, and a harried but good-hearted single-mom hoping she’s finally found Mr. Right. Fortunately, Dwayne Johnson, in a role that is tailor made for his affable charisma, keen sense of comic timing, and toothy grin, is in both of them. He takes this tale of Derek, a minor league ice hockey player runs afoul of the fairy world because he has lost sight of his dreams, and throws himself into it, and the pink tulle tutu, with wild abandon.
Part of the problem is his nickname, The Tooth Fairy, the which he earned for his proclivity for making the opposing team lose their pearly whites. The larger problem is his even greater proclivity for setting children straight about their dreams. Or at least, how he sees their dreams, his own having gone south when he blew out his shoulder in the majors. When he almost spills the beans on the other kind of tooth fairy to his girlfriend’s adorable moppet of a daughter, Tess (Destiny Whitlock) , he receives a summons from the Department of Dissemination of Disbelief, a pair of wings, and a disorienting trip through a spangly wormhole to Fairyland. It’s also where the tutu comes in, but only because of a bureaucratic error. Not that the male version, a satin tunic and tights, is much better, though it does show off Johnson’s fierce calves to admirable effect and that is no small thing. Neither are the calves.
But I digress.
In Fairyland he is penalized for his scoffing by being sentenced to serve temporary duty as a tooth fairy. As unpleasant as that prospect is, its nothing compared to the antagonistic relationship he develops with his case worker, Tracy (Stephen Merchant), who has wing envy, and the contentious one he has with the head fairy (Julie Andrews perfectly regal, if wearing a little too much eyeliner), who is worried about budgets. Those difficulties threaten to extend his sentence. Meanwhile, being on call 24-7 threatens his place on the ice hockey team, especially with the cocky new kid phenom on the block (Ryan Scheckler) getting all the attention. The tooth fairy uniform, the one that he automatically pops into when called into action, threatens the respect of his teammates, and his newly erratic behavior is threatening his blossoming relationship is with Carly (Ashley Judd), as does the general teenage malaise threatens from Carlys son, Randy (Chase Ellison), the one with killer guitar skills and fragile dreams of a career playing music.
Paradigm-shifting literature its not, but in Johnsons capable hands, the material is enjoyable, particularly when he and Merchant spar, the former needling the latter, who evinces a pugnacious personality and reedy body language not unlike a surly milkweed to Johnsons cuddly slow-burn. Billy Crystal brightens the screen as a tenured gadget fairy with a wicked streak, as does Seth McFarlane using smooth-talking cons to purvey black-market magic. Johnson isn’t just in on the joke, he is enjoying it as much as the audience is, helping it with along the outrageous leaps of faith the script asks said audience to take. Not so much with the whimsy of Fairyland, as the Slough of Despond that is the domestic tangle. Not even Johnson, wailing on drums or tackling Randys bully, can quite get the audience over a leadenly predictable subplot redeemed only by Johnsons investment in it and Whitworths (in context) annoyingly adorable smile. As for explaining why there would be a suitably miniature skateboard at Dereks disposal as just the right moment during a dicey tooth run, theres no attempt made.
If THE TOOTH FAIRY had been more, or even all, The Rock and Merchant being forced to work together and, inevitably, reaching a suitable detente, it would have been a solid bit of tomfoolery. Instead, its a semi-solid, very family friendly flick that allows Johnson to indulge his talent for the absurd with a straight face and gleeful spirit.