Director: Pedro Almodóvar

**

This review originally appeared on Ramp.ie

Times are tough in Spain. With debt growing and over a quarter of the country’s workforce now unemployed, it appears incumbent on the artists and storytellers of España to lighten the mood and get people smiling again. Pedro Almodóvar, Spain’s finest living filmmaker, thus steps up to the mark with I’m So Excited, an aeroplane-set comedy that, try as it might, probably won’t get you too excited. The film opens with two clumsy baggage handlers accidentally damaging the landing gear of one of Peninsula Airways’ jets. The handlers are played by Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz in cameos, but they sadly disappear soon after, and we’re left with the cast of a raunchier Carry On flick en Español, but with more sex and less laughs.

The damaged landing gear leads to mid-air panic at the prospect of a crash. As the plane circles the skies looking for a possible safe landing spot, it’s up to the three dedicated air stewards Joserra (Javier Cámara), Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo) and Fajas (Carlos Areces) to keep the handful of first-class passengers calm. How? By doping them with drugged cocktails and instigating sing-songs and a bit of an orgy. As you do. I’m So Excited is a pitch-perfect definition of ‘high camp’. Besides taking place for the most part on an aeroplane and getting its characters high, it’s more camp than a group of camp campsite owners in a camper van on a Christmas cruise on the Love Boat. Besides the three prancing stewards, you have the sexually frustrated pilots, the virgin psychic (Lola Duenas) and the aging dominatrix (Cecilia Roth), all randy as heck and mescalined to the eyeballs. Cue panting.

This is Almodóvar’s half-hearted effort to hearken back to earlier, funnier films like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, but what he thinks is funny feels limp at best and self-indulgent at worst. As the crew and passengers fantasize about each other and the possibility of their impending doom, this mile-high club of misfits becomes simply boring by the time the climax comes around. Considering the richness of the characters in the likes of The Skin I Live In and Talk To Her, this bunch are decidedly forgettable.

Admittedly, some scenes do hit the right notes. The highlight sees the stewards lip-syncing to the Pointer Sisters song from which the film gets its English title. Meanwhile, the efforts of some other passengers to communicate with loved ones on the ground hint at the more genuine, better film this could have been. However, Almodóvar tiptoes around darkness and satire at every opportunity. For example, whilst all the debauchery goes on in first class, the second-class passengers and crew are all sound asleep on tranquilizers. The whole Peninsula flight is going down while the first class  are having fun and the second-class folks are doped up? It’s a gentle prod where an in-form Almodóvar might have made a killer blow.

I’m So Excited is so light that it is doomed to flit from the mind of all but the hardcore Almodóvar fans, but even they will find it hard to forgive the grating campness and the toothless bite. It’s unfortunate to see him follow up one of his darkest and best films with one of his weakest. I’m So Excited is a distracting romp, but it barely takes off when it should soar.

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