Pedro Almodovar’s “I’m So Excited!” is, alas, nothing to get excited about. More to the point, this comedy about mid-air sexual and drug-taking hijinks aboard a possibly doomed airliner is nothing to laugh at either.
Some critics have called “I’m So Excited!” a throwback to the Spanish auteur’s late ’80s/early’90s risqué comedies. But that requires a faulty memory of “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” and “Law of Desire.”
Those were funny, outrageous movies. This new one feels juvenile with naughty gags that fall flat and actors flailing away in an unsuccessful search for laughs.
The comedy is a hit in Almodovar’s native Spain where locals read it as a metaphor for the country’s many social and political ills including the debt crisis and rampant corruption. These themes will pretty much fly under the radar for most international audiences, however, although Almodovar stalwarts and the LBGT crowd may get a kick out of its camp kinkiness.
Throughout the film you feel that the writer-director has for some reason deliberately handcuffed himself with cramped quarters and soap opera themes that refuse to yield to comedy.
Then a strange interlude in the second act, where the scene suddenly switches to some peculiar and highly coincidental melodrama on the ground, possibly reflects a more expanded story that got scuttled in the editing room.
What you’re left with is a gay wet dream about horny passengers, pilots and flight attendants, each with a dark secret. The various stories mostly take place in business class while everyone in economy snoozes away, having been thoroughly doped with muscle relaxants to avoid panic.
Before the flight to Mexico takes off, a brief interlude on the tarmac allows Almodovar to give cameo appearances to two members of his old stock company, Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, and thereby justify their inclusion in the film’s cast. If you sneeze twice, you’ll miss them.
Then in yet another indication that all did not go well in the editing room, the film then immediately jumps into a mid-crisis mode. Moments after the flight is underway, the economy section is already knocked out while business class passengers are agitated about poor service and other complaints.
This is definitely a flight of the imagination though as passengers invade the cockpit with little protest from the pilots or attendants and everyone including the pilots are doing tequila shots and later cocktails laced with mescaline.
It seems the landing gear has malfunctioned and no air controller in Spain can find a runway for an emergency landing. So the plane circles and circles while everyone who is awake parties hearty.
All the flight attendants (Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo, Carlos Areces) are gay and the two pilots, the captain (Antonio de la Torre) and co-pilot (Hugo Silva), certainly lean that way.
Then there’s a philandering actor (Guillermo Toledo), who is able to make an unusual phone call to two lovers on ground (Paz Vega and Blanca Suárez), which ushers in that curious albeit brief shift in locale for the movie.
Other flamboyant caricatures include a financier turned embezzler (Javier Cámara), afflicted by a daughter’s estrangement, and a drug-smuggling groom (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) who feeds his bride (Laya Martí) a steady supply of barbiturates since sex with her while “sleepwalking” is apparently better than when she is awake.
The cast is animated enough — especially the film’s virtual raison d’être where the crew dances and lip syncs to the Pointer Sisters song that provides the film’s English title — but their energy spins off into space. Nothing sparks the comedy and, lord knows, the plots are too insubstantial to pay any attention to.
The film finally disintegrates into a virtual orgy where the clairvoyant loses her virginity to a sleeping passenger, the groom demonstrates his new wife’s sleeping talent and pilots and crew engage in oral sex while the plane cruises on autopilot.
Maybe you had to be on the set for any of this to seem funny — or even sexy.
The candy colors and TV sitcom framing of José Luis Alcaine cinematography make this film feel like it belongs to 1950s screen comedy but with a dirty-mindedness the era would never have tolerated.
The trouble is, of course, that in the present day such dirty-mindedness belongs more to teen comedies than a movie from the usually much more sophisticated Pedro Almodovar.
Opens: June 28, 2013 (Sony Pictures Classics)
Venue: LA Film Festival
Production companies: El Deseo S.A.
Cast: Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo, Cecilia Roth, Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva Paz Vega, Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas
Director/screenwriter: Pedro Almodovar
Producers: Agustin Almodovar, Ester Garcia
Director of photography: Jose Luis Alcaine
Production designer: Antxon Gomez
Music: Alberto Iglesias
Choreographer: Blanca Li
Costume designer: Tatiana Hernandez
Editor: Jose Salcedo
R rated, 95 minutes