Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has made many good movies, many movies that made great sums of money, and some movies that are both good and made great sums of money. He is very famous — astonishingly famous, even. Everybody knows who The Rock is and more or less everybody loves The Rock. He is oh-so-very charming, pretty good at acting, and even better at pretend-punching bad dudes while saying things like “Daddy’s gotta go to work.” What could ever have stopped him from being as widely beloved as he is today?
Actually, there is very much something that might have stopped him from being as beloved as he is today. It is a relic of a bygone era, an era in which Dwayne Johnson existed in the place Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson does today, an era in which Dwayne Johnson was making an effort to reach beyond his usual action-movie leading man status and branch out into family films. Those efforts reached their nadir in 2010, with the release of a film largely lost in the sands of time. The greatest trick Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ever pulled was convincing the world that Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist.
Tooth Fairy will, against all odds, receive something of a resurgence later this year with the launch of Disney+, a titanic streaming service that will now be its permanent home. With more eyes soon to be on it than ever, it feels like the right time to revisit this cinematic monstrosity. This writer, a certified Rock Expert (or geologist, if you will) quite literally wrote the book on The Rock, and as such feels safe in saying he has seen Tooth Fairy more than any other moviegoer this decade. (Three, three times he has seen it, and three times has felt compelled to call his mother and ask why she brought him into such a cold, unforgiving world in which a film like this might be produced.) As such, he feels uniquely suited to expound upon its particularly unique brand of awfulness.
Tooth Fairy is a family film that was released in January 2010. It is about a hockey player played by Dwayne Johnson, who is very mean and likes to hit people while he plays hockey, often knocking their teeth out as he does it. It’s earned him the nickname “The Tooth Fairy” (NOTE: This is the name of the movie). Perhaps the single meanest thing he does in this movie, which also serves as the inciting incident of the film, is steal a dollar from beneath the pillow of his girlfriend’s six-year-old daughter and tell her that the Tooth Fairy does not exist. It is a very mean thing to do! It’s impressively mean. What kind of person does that? Derek “The Tooth Fairy” Thompson, that’s who does that. This man, the one who beats the teeth out of the mouths of his opponents and steals a dollar from a child? This is your protagonist. You love Derek. You must love Derek because Derek is the man who will be driving this story, all 101 minutes of it.
Anyways, you can probably guess where this is going: Derek is then whisked away to the land of Tooth Fairies, as one so often is. To atone for his sins, this big ol’ lunky hockey player must serve two weeks as a tooth fairy, a job for which he is predictably unprepared.
Shockingly, hijinks ensue.
Here’s the thing: this isn’t the MOST shocking turn for Johnson at the time. He was fresh off of a number of family-fare duds, including The Game Plan and Planet 51, both of which are bad, and if you’re capable of expelling their existence from your memory, your life will be easier. His management at the time had been pushing him to slim down and take fewer action roles to diversify his portfolio. It was a decision Johnson quickly backtracked on after this film’s release. A year later, he starred in Fast Five, kicking off a decade of dominance we’re still experiencing today. Tooth Fairy was left in the dust where it belonged.
What IS surprising is that this movie is full of other actors who for sure should have known better. Julie Andrews is in this movie. Billy Crystal is in this movie. Julie Andrews and Billy Crystal have starred in two of the greatest movies of all time (The Sound of Music and When Harry Met Sally) and also Tooth Fairy. It cannot be undone, it cannot be erased. British character actor and Fighting With my Family director Stephen Merchant? He’s a supporting lead. Ashley Judd? Relegated to the role of The Girlfriend despite deserving so much more.
Tooth Fairy isn’t even properly So Bad It’s Good like The Room. It’s not particularly funny (save for every time Johnson is sporting gaudy CGI fairy wings, which is undeniably very very good). It is not quite deranged enough to make for great midnight movie fare. It’s simply an unfunny, sophomoric drag full of toilet humor and every stereotype imaginable. The reason it’s worth watching, if one could go so far, is simply to experience the bizarre reality that it exists at all. It truly must be seen to be believed, and thanks to Disney Plus, it’s about to have a whole new generation of believers.
Perhaps the single most shocking thing about Tooth Fairy is that, despite its critical thrashing and general obsolesence, it was technically successful enough to warrant a direct-to-DVD sequel starring Larry the Cable Guy. This means it has one more sequel than The Rock’s trash-action masterpiece G.I. Joe: Retaliation ever will. Truly, God has forsaken us all.
You can buy Tres Dean’s book For Your Consideration: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in stores and online October 15th, 2019.