Derek Thompson (Dwayne Johnson) is a close to washed-up ice hockey player who is affectionately known as “The Tooth Fairy” due to his ability to wipe out opposing players on the rink, an action that usually results in their loss of teeth. Having long ago given up the dream of ever scoring during a game, Derek is happy to lap up the adulation he receives from the crowds for causing such carnage. However, when Derek’s overly pragmatic approach to coping with life by having low expectations results in him telling a young boy to also abandon his dreams, Derek is magically taken to Fairyland where he learns that he must atone for his dream-killing sins by doing time as a tooth fairy.
The tough guy having to deal with the world of children comedic scenario has been popular since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stint in Kindergarden Cop in 1990. Just the contrast between the tiny physiques of children to the muscular and hyper masculine body of action stars, like former professional wrestler Dwayne Johnson, provides a basic degree of amusement. Throughout Tooth Fairy Derek has to somehow reconcile the delicate world of fairy magic with his bulky and destructive presence and most of the gags in the film are bull-in-a-China-shop type situations as he screws up various attempts at retrieving teeth from under the pillows of sleeping children.
Johnson has in the past proven to be a very charismatic performer who is excellent in supporting roles as a character actor. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have to talent to sustain a lead role, especially a comedic lead role. It is impossible to dislike the guy but his constant mugging for the camera does wear thin and very few laughs ensue. However, he still comes out a lot better than Ashley Judd, as Thompson’s girlfriend Carly, who is absolutely woeful.
What makes Tooth Fairy far from being a total loss is the inclusion of a very strong supporting cast. Billy Crystal has a marvellously funny cameo as a sort of Fairy Q character, who is in charge of dispensing the magical items used for teeth collection, and Julie Andrews as the stern but fair matriarch of Fairyland is a delight. However, the most significant aspect of Tooth Fairy is that for the first time English comedy writer, actor and performer Stephen Merchant finally gets a significant role. As the co-creator of the television series The Office and Extras, Merchant has been somewhat left in the shadow of co-creator Ricky Gervais’s meteoric rise to fame. Merchant has had cameos in various films, plus he played the incompetent agent in Extras, but as Tracy, Thompson’s reluctant caseworker, Merchant really gets to shine. Merchant is so effortlessly funny that when he’s not on screen you are impatiently waiting for him to appear again. Once he is there you forget about the fact that for the most part Tooth Fairy is fairly mediocre entertainment.