Watching Flyboys, a new movie starring James Franco as a WWI flying ace, it’s surprising how few honest to god genre movies get made these days. This flick could have just as easily been made during the height of the studio system with contract players and a journeyman director for hire. There’s little here that smacks of innovation, with its intently three act structured plot, single note characters and falsely stirring, string-laden soundtrack. But there must still be moviegoers who don’t want more from their film going experiences than to be a little romanced, a little stirred and a little entertained. In this modest enterprise, Flyboys is an ace.
Much of the success should be laid squarely on the broad shoulders of James Franco. His winning but gentle masculinity makes him an actor cut from the old school mold. He goes out to do a job—to play the moderate outlaw who redeems and leads the squad of Americans in the French air force—and does it. End of story. He’s the kind of matinee idol you can take home to your grandmother.
The bulk of the flick is a series of increasingly complex bi-plane air fights peppered with a bit of G rated, PC boy bonding. The one who wants to be a hero learns the real meaning of courage. The fat, rich one learns to accept the black one. While the screw up comes to terms with his war wound and gets to save the day. It’s all not rock science, or even newly developed bi-plane science. It’s just by the number plot exhibition.
If the cineplex were like a bookstore, Flyboys would be one of those paperback novels you can find near the exit for that last minute impulse buy. It's distracting, though not very substantial.