Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I have no idea about aviation.  None.  I have no clue about how planes fly, what makes them fly, how they maneuver in the air or anything.  Anything I may know about planes comes from movies and arcade style videogames.  Top Gun and Crimson Skies.  This is what I know.  So for an aviation idiot such as myself to sit back and watch MGM’s World War I fighter plane epic and wonder if WWI biplanes could really fly that fast, make 90 degree turns, stop in the air on dime, do a 180 degree turn all while blasting away those lousy red plane flying Germans makes you wonder what someone who knows something about aviation would think.  Let me know though if I’m off base on this.  Nonetheless, the computer generated dogfight scenes were BY FAR the best thing about ‘Flyboys’, a overly long, confused, epically sweeping, but ultimately failed WWI picture.

James Franco (My GOD someone get me this man’s agent) is Blaine Rawlings, a loose cannon ‘that doesn’t play by the rules’ and who joins the French resistance with a group of other American fly boy hopefuls to quell the Kaiser’s onslaught of Europe.  The squad ace is Cassidy (Martin Henderson) who spends most of the movie telling the recruits how they are going to die.  Thanks Cap!   The rest of the pilots are pretty much the stereotypical crew that pops up in films such as these, the snobby rich guy, the family man, the joker, the bible thumper and the black dude.  Most of whom won’t make it to end of the film.

One of the main problems with ‘Fly Boys’ is that there never seemed to be any real sense of ‘War’ in this war movie.  Let’s be honest, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ raised the bar on war movies and you have really got to step up to the plate to compete with that

harrowing war masterpiece.  Our heroes in the film simply lounged around in the plush summer home provided for them, admired the beautiful scenery, drank at the bar, visited the brothels and then scrambled to their planes when they were alerted that France was being leveled (apparently they fought back in this one).  Framed around this general nonchalant attitude towards the war were some fantastic, very well realized dog fighting scenes with biplanes and German tri-wings flipping, burning, shooting, exploding, ascending, descending, and crashing with lots of dying in-between.  But to get the outstanding fight scenarios we had to suffer through a cliché ridden story which liberally lifts from practically every war movie ever made. 

Then there’s our star James Franco.  Oh James Franco.  I’m told, by many sources (mostly female, and, uh, one dude I know) that he a really good looking guy.  This must be true because he’s not a really good acting guy, at least not yet.  In most of Mr. Franco’s films he furrows his brow and broods throughout the proceedings, in this one he’s a little less tortured and little more happy go lucky, but does it all with his signature brooding furrowed brow.  Most of the actors fail to separate themselves from cliché however, proof being that when one of them dies, and most of them do die, one could really care less and feels no true sense of loss.  When Martin Henderson (whom I thought was outstanding in Torque, yes, Torque) and James Franco get together in a scene, it’s more a battle of the underwear models other than two relatively seasoned actors attacking a great scene.

Director Tony Bill would have also better served his film to completely jettison the love story he dropped on us as well.  When our hero, who mutters his English, meets the beautiful Lucienne (Jennifer Decker) who speaks no English, the movie comes to a screeching halt.  The assumption being that the actors powerful chemistry would carry us through these long scenes with pretty people either mumbling or saying absolutely nothing to each other.  It doesn’t, and it goes on seemingly forever.

‘Fly Boys’ is not a bad film by any means, and has some really good things going for it.  But it is one, considering the effort and meticulous care that went into creating the awesome looking scenery and the outstanding air battles, that I would have loved to have been much better than it turned out.

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