Prepare For Turbulence

6 05 2008

“The Flyboys” 2008

Starring: Jesse James, Reiley McClendon, Stephen Baldwin, and Tom Sizemore

I’m not sure if it was the shared excitement of attending the opening night of the Syracuse International Film Festival that made the audience exceptionally enthusiastic about this film. Perhaps it was the fact that they were able to share the theater with the film’s starring character. Possibly neither, as opening night marked the Film Fest’s 5th annual visit to the Central New York city, and Stephen Baldwin and his equally famous brothers are proudly regarded as friends and neighbors by default to residents of their native Syracuse.

Whatever the explanation, Rocco DeVilliers “The Flyboys” captivated each individual in the jam-packed theater, with collective “ohhs” and “ahhs” and “oh nos!” audible at every twist and turn in the story. I might classify this film as a pre-teen fairy tale for adolescent boys. “The Flyboys,” as they are dubbed halfway through the film, are two junior high school-aged friends who in the span of two days find themselves twice flying a mobster-owned airplane unaccompanied by adults, jumping out of the airborne airplane without the encumbrance of anything so troublesome as a death-preventative parachute, and are invited by hardened criminals to enjoy a smorgasbord of virtual toys conveniently located in their basement game room. It’s ridiculous. Utterly and undeniably impossible, even laughable. And I haven’t even started talking about the assortment of cringingly sentimental sequences littered throughout the film.

This is the kind of story that can only take place in cinema fantasy land. It’s a place they used to visit frequently generations ago, before actors acting like they are doing anything but acting became the order of the day. Back then movies were not made to reflect a society’s score of idiosyncrasies, or to depict a slice of life story that could easily have happened to our next door neighbor or the friend of our sister’s husband’s second cousin. Back then, it was still necessary for a film to tell a story about something that was ever so slightly out of reach to its audience. It was still acceptable to over-sentimentalized connections between characters and twist physics and facts just enough to let the viewer know there while there would be no Never-Neverland or Yellow Brick Road, it would still be feasible for a character to survive a parachute-less free-fall from a pilot-less plane.

When Steven Baldwin rose to present the film as a courtesy to his director, who was diligently manning the projection room, he invited us to enjoy what he believes is a highly entertaining picture. Despite the film’s flaws, I was never bored, and I left the theater that night with a smile on my face. Perhaps it did take place in Neverland after all. Where gangsters are bad but not too bad. Where thieves feel regret about a betrayal and crime kings make fatherly role-models for adolescent boys. Where good kids get the better of bullies instead of the other way around, and romance is easy and innocent, even between adults. It’s the kind of world I wouldn’t mind visiting again, if only for 90 minutes or so.

♦♦½

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