Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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Sept. 26, 2006

"Flyboys" never lifts off the ground

by Johanna Gretschel, Online Managing Editor
The year is 1917 and while the rest of the world is engaged in World War I, the United States is still clinging to its neutrality. Americans looking for a good fight have the opportunity to hold their own against the Germans by enlisting in the Lafayette Escadrille, a French squadron of fighter pilots made up mostly of American volunteers. Based on the true story of the first American pilots in the Lafayette Escadrille, "Flyboys" has the potential to soar but crashes with its weak plot and one-dimensional characters.

"Flyboys" opens as the main group of characters are leaving home to enlist in the French Air Force. The characters are stereotypical and unoriginal: the aristocrat who must live up to his father and grandfather's legacies in the air force (Philip Winchester); the "failure" whose enlistment is a last ditch attempt to earn his father's approval (Briggs Lowry); the black boxer who heard rumored equality in the air force (Abdul Salis); and naturally, the talented yet rebellious hottie pilot with a heart of gold.

James Franco portrays the latter, Blaine Rawlings, in typical form: lots of dramatic posturing and eyes squinting accompanied by poignant music. None of the characters develop well enough to be memorable. Martin Henderson ("The Ring" and music video "Toxic") delivers an uninspiring performance as Reed Cassidy, the squadron's lead pilot. Reed comes across as moody and annoying but somehow makes a connection with the emotionally dead Rawlings, a blow to the movie's credibility.

The film follows the squadron through their basic training and first glimpses of war, revealing the reactions of the "flyboys" when they first realize that enlisting was not all fun and games. At one point while the rest of the camp drinks and sings, angst-ridden protagonist Rawlings spoils the fun by chastising his teammates for celebrating whiles others died. Reed suggests that Rawlings leave while he is still alive, but Rawlings refuses, complaining and whining his way through the rest of the film.

Of course, the movie would not be complete without the requisite love interest, and in this case the role goes to the French ingénue Lucienne (Jennifer Decker). Rawlings and Lucienne fall for each other despite the language barrier – and the fact that they see each other roughly three times throughout the entire film. Their love affair is simply another example of the movie's halfhearted attempts to stretch reality.

While credit must be given to the dazzling special effects during the dogfight sequences, it is difficult to distinguish one scarf-carrying, goggle-wearing pilot from the next. This confusion quickly leads way to frustration when trying to discern who died or been shot down.

Corny "scene-setting" music pops up predictably at every semi-dramatic moment, which succeeds only in giving away the dramatic moments before they even happen. Clocking in at 139 minutes, the film seems endless and could have easily been cut down to under two hours without losing any value. Though using the same logic, one could argue against the need for "Flyboys" to ever have been made.

"Flyboys," (139 minutes, area theaters), is rated PG-13 for mild violence and some sexual innuendo.

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  • 08 (View Email) on September 26, 2006 at 4:27 PM
    Does Silver Chips online ever give a good review to a movie, I mean I know that its easier to write a negative review then a positive one but common you guys have to be positive about SOME movies. Get it together Chips.
  • vJ on September 26, 2006 at 7:14 PM
    Wow Joho, you pretty much tore that apart, especially with that last sentence - "against the need for "Flyboys" to ever have been made." How can you say that about Harry? I know he tried to kill Spiderman, but he was just trying to avenge his father. I forgive him (even though I think he becomes hob goblin), but it seems like your heart isn't big enough. If you didn't understand a word I just wrote, then we'll talk about it during the ladder workout tomorrow.
  • waterhat on September 27, 2006 at 8:06 PM
    i loved this review.
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