Flight of the Phoenix


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"Flight of the Phoenix crashes and burns, then rises up and crashes and burns again."










Flight of the Phoenix
The Masked Reviewer

John Moore's latest film involves airplanes.  So did his two previous films, Yaeger (about the pilot, not the alcoholic beveragemesiter) and Behind Enemy Lines (about a pilot that's shot down, not insults against your foes' fannies).  Here's the stunning coincidence: the film is remarkably similar to a 1965 film featuring James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, and Ernest Borgnine.  That movie also involved airplanes, although it was called The Flight of the Phoenix

Dennis Quaid stars as Captain Frank Towns.  He and his passengers run into some tough times and, without giving too much away, they need to have something happen before something bad happens. 

Also starring in the film are Tyrese (formerly known as Tyrese Gibson, but he was tired of constantly being asked if he's related to Mel Gibson, so he dropped his last name), Giovanni Ribisi (Italian for John Frogcall), Miranda Otto (she likes to get blotto), and a bunch of other actors (including the guy from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade who swore to protect the secrets of the grail).  But star power isn't the main focus of the film.

After one bad thing happens, many other bad things happen.  A really bad thing is going to happen sooner or later, so before it does, the people pull together to solve a problem.  The Masked Reviewer occasionally runs into difficulty describing a movie without giving too much away.  It's especially hard here, because even though the plot could be described in a sentence, that sentence pretty much is the only interesting thing about the movie.  The acting isn't great...not horrible, but cheesy at times and just downright strange at other times.  The situation is not convincing or believable, and the cast goes from fighting one moment to singing Outkast the next.  They're in a dire situation, but no one seems to be as bothered as they should. 

Essentially, there's one thing happening in the movie, and it takes a really long time to get there.  Imagine wandering through the desert for a week.  That's what watching Flight of the Phoenix is like, except instead of wandering, they're pretty much standing around.  At least with wandering, you get to see a change of scenery.  Sure, if you've seen one dune, you've seen them all...but if you want to see a bunch of people standing around complaining, you could go...ANYWHERE

In the film, Dennis Quaid's character is given the (brief) nickname "Shut It Down Towns".  See, his name is Frank Towns, and he shuts things down.  The director should be given the nickname John "Please Stop I Can't Take Any More" Moore.  The movie is long, and you'll know where it's going all the way through.  There aren't a lot of laughs, the exciting moments aren't particularly well executed, and no one seems to have put too much of themselves into their roles.

Giovanni Ribisi gives the most interesting performance as a mysteriously nebbish loner (interesting is not always good, by the way).  He's interesting, yet goofy.  His portrayal is almost a caricature...it seems like a part taken from a Rob Schneider movie, yet the character is serious.  The Masked Reviewer would say that you'd have to see the movie to understand, but that might be misunderstood as a recommendation to actually see this movie.  It's not the worst movie ever made, but there's a lot wrong with it.

Among the many problems are some odd continuity errors.  Things are covered with sand one moment, then instantly back to normal.  Also, there's some hint that shotgun shells are used to start a plane, which is news to the Masked Reviewer, but it's not set up very well.

Here's the bright side.  The movie has some great sound effects.  The sound design is excellent, with whipping wind and screeching metal, and thundering booming booms.  It's fun to listen to, it's just that the images aren't great.  In fact (and this may have been the print the Masked Reviewer saw, but it seems unlikely) there are times when the visual quality of one shot doesn't match another.  It's like watching an 8mm film intercut with a VHS camcorder.  It's rather jolting, and it doesn't appear to be an artistic choice.

The only artistic choice present in the film appears to be to explore how long to make someone sit through this movie.  If it had been, say, 60 minutes (preferably a TV movie) it might have been okay.  As it is, there's nothing to recommend, unless perhaps if you're a huge fan of some of the people in it.  Even so, Flight of the Phoenix never takes off.  See?  That's the sort of line you'd see in the movie.  How predictable.  How about Flight of the Phoenix crashes and burns, then rises up and crashes and burns again. 


Expectation from the Title:  Rimsky-Korsakov's sequel to "Bumblebee" in film (instead of orchestral) format.  Instead of being lighthearted and flitting, this is slow, awkward, long, and dull.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  No one seemed to get sunburned, which sends a good message to our children about always wearing sunscreen.

The Pros: Giovanni Ribisi gives you something to think about.  Is he awful?  Is he messing with us?  If someone had a big paper bag, could he act his way out of it?  The sound design was very good.

The Cons: Boring, long, predictable, not brilliantly acted, who cares?

Looking for Giovani Ribissi or Flight of the Pheonix?  This is the place, read above.

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