2006-10-06 / Columnists

MovieScope

"Flyboys" - Nosedive
Commentary By Robert Snyder

Kids crazy about model airplanes and World War I aerial dogfights will love "Flyboys."

The CGI action sequences are as exciting as anything in the "Star Wars" movies. However, directed by Tony Bill, the buddy stuff on the ground is less spectacular. It's no "Platoon." This makes for slow-going, while waiting for the guys to get into the air and battle the Bloody Red Barons.

Based on the true story of the Lafayette Escadrille squadron, "Flyboys" chronicles the adventures of a group of Americans, who join the French flying combat troupe before the United States entered the First World War. The central focus is on Blaine Rawlings (James Franco), a Texas cowboy at loose-ends when his family ranch is foreclosed. He has the most interesting tale. He falls for a pretty mademoiselle in a romance, which could have provided a "Titanic"-like spine to the otherwise fragmented screenplay.

The other U.S. flying aces include spoiled rich boy Briggs Lowry (Tyler Labine), seeking his stuffy father's approval; African-American boxer Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis), in France to avoid racial prejudice; scion of a Nebraskan military family William Jensen (Philip Winchester), determined to overcome his cowardice; geeky Eddie Beagle (David Ellison), with a suspicious background that may account for his continuous misfiring.

The squadron leader is the mysterious Cassidy (Martin Henderson). The owner of a pet lion, he has a personal vendetta against the Germans for killing other flyers who were his friends. French Captain Thenault (Jean Reno) is the most solid, though subtly-moving character as he tries to keep the Americans in line, despite the fact they have a life expectancy of six weeks under his command.

Still, none of the acting motivation ultimately matters in a movie that works as a big-screen video game, with the biplanes, triplanes and even a zeppelin swooping or soaring to outmaneuver each other in epic dogfights. It makes you appreciate the unbelievable bravery the actual flyers displayed by manning newly-invented aerial machines before anyone thought of something called, "a parachute."

If you're up for some high-flying action-adventure, check out "Flyboys." Or, stay grounded with a good video game.

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