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Fly the Overfriendly Skies

I'm So Excited! (2013)

Paola Ardizzoni and Emilio Pereda/
Sony Pictures Classics

Hanging an apparent left turn from his recent forays into melodrama of various flavors, Pedro Almodóvar re-embraces high-camp farce with a vengeance in "I'm So Excited!," along with the chance to regrumble his annoyance at the current state of his home country. The result is occasionally something like oxygen starvation. In Mr. Almodóvar's very broad-brush comedy, a variety of hapless and horny characters cocooned in the business class cabin of a Peninsula Airlines flight set about coupling, confessing and — in the Kenneth Williams sense — carrying on. A raft of Mr. Almodóvar's regulars pass along the aisles, including Cecilia Roth as a former dominatrix with the dirt on Spain's elite and Lola Dueñas as a vaguely psychic virgin with a bad case of peninsula envy. Flagrant fragrant archetypes all.

Inside this sealed universe, Mr. Almodóvar's tactics feel needlessly basic. The entirety of economy class is drugged and comatose, while the not especially fine or upstanding folk in the posher seats are consumed with their own problems. One of their number is a disgraced banker on the run; another is a hit man with a taste for history. Yet another is beating a hasty retreat from at least two women, both seen in the film's most retrained, ground-based and so doubly incongruous section, which involves a cameo from Paz Vega and feels much like decompression. Above all there's a marauding chorus of three spectacularly camp flight attendants, serving mescaline-laced drinks between bouts of smutty confession and at one point launching into a lip-synched dance routine to the Pointer Sisters song because, well, why not? One of their number is Carlos Areces, prancing around the cabin with comb-over trailing behind him in the breeze and providing the film's only genuine physical comedy. (Antonio de la Torre is flying the plane, but fans of "The Last Circus" will be disappointed that the pair don't attack each other.)

Ninety minutes of all this crawls by, since Mr. Almodóvar's fun with this lot as fizzy caricatures hasn't stretched to making many of them particularly easy to like. Plus it's a fundamentally thin parable, built from site-specific bits of business that can only land as more vague and diffuse blows away from home, once decoded. The director's blazing color schemes seem suitably intense when confined within the narrow walls of an aircraft cabin, especially when so much of the available volume is occupied by Mr. Areces; and the choreography of sensual bodies in motion is still sometimes bracing. But for once the big thematic frustrations don't fit into the small-scale apparatus chosen for the job, turning too much of the film into a rude doodle on the idea that airplanes are phallic; ground which "Airplane!" more than covered.


Opens on May 3 in Britain and on June 28 in New York and Los Angeles.

Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar; director of photography, José Luis Alcaine; music by Alberto Iglesias; choreography by Blanca Li; art director, Antxon Gómez; costumes by Tatiana Hernández; produced by Agustín Almodóvar and Esther Garcia; released by Pathé (Britain) and Sony Pictures Classics (United States). In Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. This film is rated 15 by B.B.F.C. and R by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Antonio de la Torre (Alex Acero), Hugo Silva (Benito Morón), Miguel Ángel Silvestre (the Groom), Laya Martí (the Bride), Javier Cámara (Joserra), Carlos Areces (Fajas), Raúl Arévalo (Ulloa), José María Yazpik (Infante), Guillermo Toledo (Ricardo Galán), José Luis Torrijo (Mr. Más), Lola Dueñas (Bruna), Cecilia Roth (Norma) and Blanca Suárez (Ruth).


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