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I'm So Excited
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by Peter Sobczynski

"And You Thought The Spruce Goose Was Wooden. . ."
2 stars

Thanks to the powerful and emotionally devastating "Volver" and "Broken Embraces" and the genuinely audacious "The Skin I Live In," I finally found myself responding positively to the works of internationally celebrated auteur Pedro Almodovar for the first time. With his latest film, "I'm So Excited," he has decided to return to the kind of wacky outrageousness that he originally made his reputation with in films like "Matador" and "Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown" and while longtime fans may be happy with the return of the lighter, brighter Almodovar, less indulgent viewers are likely to find it to be a lazy and undisciplined mess that is nowhere near as daring or scandalous as it thinks it is.

The film is set almost entirely on an airplane flying from Spain to Mexico with an all-gay crew (though one of the pilots is still a bit conflicted). Early on in the flight, it becomes apparent that the plane's landing gear has malfunctioned and that it will have to make a crash landing once an airport can be found. While the pilots go trough red tape in order to find a landing site, the exceptionally swishy stewards try to keep calm by knocking out everyone in economy class with sleeping pills and distracting those in business class--which includes an actor ditching his suicidal girlfriend, a corrupt government official, a psychic with a particular affinity for sensing death in the air, a professional dominatrix who claims to have compromising photos of virtually every member of the Spanish government and a hit man heading for his next target--with everything from a fully choreographed performance of the Pointer Sisters number that the film takes its title from to serving them mescaline-laced punch as a precursor to an all-out orgy in which more than the seats are in an upright position, if you know what I mean.

If only one could say the same about the script and direction, both of which are shockingly limp and uninspired. As a work of social satire, with the plane serving as a microcosm of Spain and its political and economic troubles, the crew as the government and media forces attempting to distract the populace from those troubles and the passengers as those whose response to imminent disaster is to party, the screenplay for "I'm So Excited" is the kind of thing that might expect from a sophomore-level writing class but not from a filmmaker of Almodovar's talents. In order to give the material a boost, Almodovar ransacks his multi-colored bag of tricks and offers up an assortment of ribald humor, cheerfully casual sexuality of all stripes and plain silliness, all dished out at an exhaustingly rapid pace (despite its overstuffed nature, it still clocks in at around 90 minutes) but none of it really clicks this time around because he is too busy trying to recapture the past instead of pressing forward into the future. More troubling is the fact that his idea of what constitutes "shocking" and "outrageous" is really dated--the transgressive moments this time around include such wheezers as a variation of the most infamous joke from "There's Something About Mary" and the centerpiece musical number, which is bad enough in theory but becomes worse when you realize that Almodovar plans on staging the song in its entirety, a move that would have brought the whole thing to a dead stop if it hadn't already arrived at that destination much earlier.

"I'm So Excited" has a hilarious opening scene--one that promises a far more focused and nuanced satire than what actually transpires--and a brilliant bit towards the end in which we hear the plane coming in for its noisy landing while we see the interior of an abandoned airport that exists in its pristine but unused state entirely due to rampant political corruption, a brief montage that says more about the subject at hand in just a few seconds than the rest of the film combined. Of course, audiences might not exactly be in the most receptive frame of mind right now for a film about a plane in danger of crashing--especially one of a comedic nature--but even if it had come out at a more opportune moment, that would not change the fact that this is a film that (Warning! Aviation-themed metaphors to follow) never quite manages to either take off properly or stick the landing.

Oh, and if you are thinking of going to see the film anyway because of the presence of Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz at the top of the cast list, you should a.) be aware that the acting credits are in alphabetical order and b.) make sure that you show up on time and are in your seat when the film begins.

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originally posted: 07/12/13 06:29:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Provincetown International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Provincetown International Film Festival series, click here.

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  28-Jun-2013 (R)
  DVD: 07-Jan-2014

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