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Directed by Tony Bill.
Written by Phil Sears, Blake T. Evans and David S. Ward.
Starring James Franco, Martin Henderson, Jennifer Decker and Jean Reno.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  9/13/06


Ross and I went to check out "Flyboys" for free tonight, with both of us coming in thinking the same thing:  sweet trailer, little action, a little World War I, why not?

We left thinking slightly different things.  Ross:  "That was fucking terrible."  Me:  not God-awful, but certainly not good.  This much was apparent throughout our theater, thanks to a crowd so old that I thought we had free tickets to see either "Calendar Girls 2", "Grumpy Old Men 3: The Afterlife" or "Cocoon: Resurrection"--

"Flyboys" is WAY too fucking long, and with a romantic subplot that would have made me get up to leave had I not decided to sit in the middle of a row, at least 30 minutes could have been trimmed away to make the film better.  As it is, we get a renegade American cowboy named Blaine (James Franco) who decides to outrun trouble in his hometown by joining the French in their efforts to fight the Germans in 1917 Europe.  Along with a handful of other brave American, English and French pilots, Blaine learns to fly in just a few weeks and uses his training to take down those nasty German pilots in biplanes so fragile that one stray bullet could end your mission.  Of course, no war movie featuring B-list or lower stars would be complete without a completely useless romantic subplot, featuring a Frenchwoman (Jennifer Decker) who speaks no English and has three kids living at her humble home in the French countryside.

Ugh.  At least make the romantic subplot worth watching!

"Flyboys" is an interesting action/horror film when it sticks to the skies; when you really think about it, how crazy was it to fight other pilots in airplanes that weren't even in existence ten years prior?  As one character poses to another mid-film, who would even imagine that this flying thing would go anywhere?  By the time you have pilots getting shot up and realizing that there is no ejector seat in a biplane and parachuting out of airplanes was not around yet, I was scared to death for anybody that decided hopping in a plane was a good battle tactic.

Save for this one element, "Flyboys" is pretty poor.  The action in the sky doesn't have a good oomph when it comes to being gritty; the PG-13 rating will kill that off a bit, eh?  The pilots don't seem to mesh well, and at no point do you buy their chemistry, despite the fact that many of them seem to hang together on the base where they are stationed...Franco, for all of his good looks, is a flat-out stiff, and nothing in "Flyboys" makes me think differently.  The supporting cast, led mainly by Martin Henderson (he starred in "Bride & Prejudice" and, well, "Torque") and Jean Reno as the team's flight instructor/senior officer, blows; even lesser actors play the other members to such ill effect that you find yourself wishing for the romantic angle to come back, before you catch yourself and realize how bad that was in the first place!

The score sucks; the lion that hangs out at the base looks like it is CGI (and I would put good money on that fact), but then you realize that even if it's real, why spend so much time emphasizing that one of the pilots even fucking has the lion?  Whether or not this group had exactly one Negro pilot isn't of interest to me; it's the fact that the Negro was even included in this nonsense.  The script gives us three or four cheap below-the-belt moments thanks to the fact that in 1917, there's fucking one black guy in the whole fucking world that wants to fly airplanes, and even when he gets there, the Americans spend time wondering if rubbing his head would be good luck, if he is a former slave, and if he enjoys being called "Chocolate."  Come the fuck on!

Did I mention that the film is 130 minutes?  Again, save for some eye-opening moments as you wonder what life might be like flying airplanes in a war about 90 years ago, "Flyboys" is not a very good film.  But, at least I saw it for free, because I was certainly going to drop money on it had I not gotten the freebie.  Phew!

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09