James Franco leads a cast of unknowns in a story of the Lafayette Escadrille, an air squadron composed of American volunteers who wanted to fight in World War I before the U.S. entered the war.
Franco stars as Blaine Rawlings, a Texan whose family ranch is foreclosed. Rawlings goes to a movie theater after letting his anger out on the banker’s face and the sheriff says he’ll give Rawlings a half hour before he serves the warrant for his arrest. The last thing Rawlings sees before he leaves the movie theater? A commercial about the boys flying over seas. Rawlings figures he’ll give it a shot.
The film does a good job of introducing all of his fellow airmen to the party and for the most part each one is distinguishable from the others. The cast gets us to care about their individual characters but I don’t really connect with them as people. They’re too clichéd. There’s the guy who wants to bring honor to his family, another who wants to say thanks to his country, the guy who comes from a family of soldiers, the guy who can’t do anything right. .. try to tell me you haven’t heard of these characters before. If you haven’t, you’re either a liar or you’ve watched like ten movies in your entire life. Franco’s taking on of Rawlings’ personality is the one thing holding the film together and he’s not doing anything over the top to do so. He’s just playing his part better than everyone else, which sad to say isn’t saying much.
Through a series of unfortunate events he discovers an attractive French girl named Lucienne and falls for her despite the obvious language barrier. Their romance is sluggish at times but eventually becomes something worth caring about.
The film shifts between the romance and the dogfights in the sky, which are probably the most well-done part of this film. The action’s realistic and while not the most intense dogfights I’ve watched, at least I care about them, which is more than I can say for some of the dogfights I’ve seen in films. I also enjoy the music in this film.
However, where this film drops the ball and prevents it from being a better-than-average movie is the character depth and the dialogue. As I mentioned earlier, there’s no depth to these characters and even with Rawlings it feels like we’re just scratching the surface of something that could have been so much more if there had been a better script and if there had been better actors behind those scripts. The dialogue can be strained at times and at times it feels like exposition comes from the same character over and over, as if he’s just hanging in the background waiting for Rawlings to mention something just so he can explain what it is to us, something I have a hard time seeing a soldier doing. Once again, when the romantic part of this film involves two people who have trouble even communicating with each other, that also doesn’t help. I don’t think it’s unfair when I say it’s hard to believe two people can fall in love when their conversations can barely pass the third grade language barrier. Just doesn’t seem very plausible to me.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
90-100 It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Scrooge, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Green Mile, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Poseidon, Iron Man, Lone Survivor, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Next Three Days)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Aliens, Alien Resurrection, Full Metal Jacket, Thor, You’re Next)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Patriot Games, The Great Gatsby, Pitch Black, Alien, Serendipity)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Midnight Cowboy, Dark Fury, Alien 3, Open Grave)
My score for Flyboys: 73.
Flyboys isn’t throwing any punches that we didn’t see coming a mile away nor performing any unique or creative tricks with its plot, but it’s still an entertaining watch when it all comes down to it. I’ve got it on DVD for the occasional watch.