The phrase “vintage Pedro Almodovar” doesn’t mean what it used to. Almodovar, the flamboyant Spanish filmmaker whose early films were packed with every transgression and every bit of brio that was missing from Spain during the long Franco dictatorship, has seemed trapped in the past of late.
“I’m So Excited!” is a strained, claustrophobic, dated and flat soap opera romp set onboard a Spanish airliner that is circling Toledo (Spain, not Ohio), burning off fuel and hunting for a runway to make an emergency landing.
Writer-director Almodovar, famous since “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” pours on the sex and inappropriate behavior but can never bring this melodramatic brew to a boil.
‘I’m So Excited’
DIRECTED BY: Pedro Almodovar
STARRING: Javier Camara, Lola Duenas, Cecilia Roth, Raul Arevalo, Carlos Areces, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes; in Spanish with English subtitles
The ground crew (Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas) screwed up and now the landing gear don’t work. So now the entire economy class cabin is doped on muscle relaxants and the three gayer-than-gay stewards (Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo, Carlos Areces) are drinking and sorting out their love lives.
The pilot and co-pilot are sorting out their own sexuality and the business-class passengers are finally starting to catch on and air their own stories and make calls to lovers and relatives on the intercom phone.
Fun ends early
The best joke here is burned in the first 10 minutes. We, like those passengers, don’t know what’s up with the plane. So we’re watching the flight crew smoke joints and do tequila shot “slammers” and share WAY too much sexual history in the best Almodovar tradition, as if all Spaniards are just like this.
Passenger Ricardo (Guillermo Toledo) is an actor sneaking off to Mexico on his suicidal artist-girlfriend (Paz Vega), who drops her phone off the bridge where she’s poised to jump when he calls. And who should catch the phone in her bike basket but Ruth (Blanca Suarez), Ricardo’s ex-girlfriend.
The paranoid Norma (Cecilia Roth) thinks the plane is being brought down to kill her. She has “secrets.”
And there’s Bruna (Lola Duenas), a psychic on her way to Mexico to find a missing person, and lose her virginity, along with a businessman a little too interested in the bank scandal on the front page of the paper, a couple of partying newlyweds and a dark and mysterious stranger.
Almodovar stages a little lip-sync dance by the prancing stewards (the title tune, by the Pointer Sisters) and manages the occasional funny line (in Spanish, with English subtitles).
But there’s no dramatic tension brought on by impending doom, not even “Airplane!”-styled hysteria. And the odd outrageous hard-drinking, drug smuggling, explicit sex or bodily fluid related moment doesn’t add up to anything that makes “I’m So Excited!” take flight, or measure up to “vintage Almodovar.”