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MOVIE REVIEW: Almodovar's 'I'm So Excited!' borders on corny, trite

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Left to right, Lola Duenas, Laya Martí, José María Yazpik, Antonio De La Torre, Blanca Suárez, Carlos Areces, Hugo Silva, Cecilia Roth, José Luis Torrijo, Raúl Arévalo, Miguel Ángel Silvestre amd Director Pedro Almodovar.

I’m So Excited

(R)

2 and a half stars out of 4

If Woody Allen were a large gay man who was from Spain and had a taste for the odd and macabre, he would probably make movies like Pedro Almodovar. Flying underneath the U.S. radar for close to 40 years, Almodovar has cranked out one bizarre ditty after another with little to no fanfare but has amassed a huge cult following that swears by his every word, nuance and frame. Like Allen, not everything he does is great but it’s always interesting. But unlike Allen, he isn’t afraid to offend, provoke and push the boundaries of taste to their limits.

“I’m So Excited!” (and yes, it includes the ’80s Pointer Sisters’ song of the same name) is equal parts broad farce and airplane disaster and has the unfortunate dumb luck to be released on the heels of similar events that took place recently in San Francisco and Alaska. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it is often very funny and isn’t concerned with a plane crash so much as it is the behavior of people on the plane given lots of time to contemplate their lives when faced with the possibility they could die soon.

The phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes” takes on a vaguely similar kind of meaning here. No one intones or chants to their maker or prays for a higher power to intervene and save them, but when faced with the prospect of imminent death, the characters — like many of us in similar situations — feel the need to purge or cleanse their souls and go out without any kept secrets. This process becomes infinitely easier to carry out if you add copious amounts of alcohol and prescription meds into the mix.

Pairing tragedy and comedy together in the same story is always dicey and Almodovar only gets it right about half of the time here, mostly because he goes to extremes in both directions. The connecting thread to both facets of the narrative is sex and “Excited” is about as frank and blunt as Almodovar has ever gotten. By almost anyone’s standards it is porn without the visuals and seems to exist solely for shock value.

Once it is found out there is a problem with their planes’ landing gear, the captain and crew of a Mexican-bound Spanish jet sedate those seated in business class (to keep them calm, of course) and do their best to drown the dozen or so first-classers in tequila. Oddly nobody freaks out but everyone wastes no time with their confessionals.

One man tries to contact a woman he just broke up with, rightfully fearing she might be thinking about suicide and ends up talking to another former lover. A clairvoyant woman in her 40s announces she does not want to die a virgin. Another woman — the spitting image of Anna Wintour and clearly not a virgin — is convinced her association with many men in high places is the reason the plane is going down. A dark and shadowy “consultant”-type who bears an uncanny resemblance to Frank Zappa assures her that’s not the case.

While all of these characters and their sub-plots are interesting, they dull in comparison to what’s going on with the captain, the co-captain and three flight attendants, all of whom are gay or are considering it. Not usually one to stereotype, Almodovar paints all five of these characters with traits and behavioral ticks that if conceived and executed by a heterosexual director would be labeled as blatantly politically incorrect, insensitive and offensive.

Slight as it is, “Excited” is still an Almodovar film, which means there will a handful or so of left-field plot twists along the way and he generally makes the wait worth it while presenting an ending that isn’t entirely predictable but does border on the corny and trite.

If you’ve never seen an Almodovar film, you should put “Excited” on your “maybe” list and instead rent “The Skin I Live In,” “Volver,” “Talk to Her,” “Bad Education” or anything he made in the ’90s first. He’s a far better dramatist than humorist and while not horrible, “Excited” is his version of fluff and certainly not the film any possible future fan should make their first.

Presented in Spanish with English subtitles. (Sony Classics)