"I'm So Excited" is a puzzle. It's already understandably considered director Pedro Almodovar's worst film by many European critics, but it's the way it's bad that is so confounding.
One might have expected after making such films as "Talk to Her," "All About My Mother" and "Volver," that Almodovar's early days as a pure camp jokester with a taste for lollipop visuals were behind him. He had broadened and deepened his films so much that even those whose appreciation of such things as "Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown" was academic (i.e. unfelt), found it easy to cede that he was one of the world's most important film talents.
"I'm So Excited," opening Friday, takes his career in reverse. It's almost as if he's telling the world "OK, I've been strenuously making films for ALL of you for a while and I'm tired of it. Universality bores me. So I'm going to make a protracted camp joke for me and my friends and like-minded people."
Which, if that's at all close to how he feels, would be understandable, however regrettable.
The original Spanish title of "I'm So Excited" is "Los Amante Pasajeros" which translates as "Loving Passengers" if you're being stuffy or "Horny Passengers" if you're being Almodovaresque.
The reason the Pointer Sisters' hit was appropriated for the English title is that it's sung by three gay flight attendants of Peninsula Flight 2549 and it fits as well as anything else.
It's about faulty landing gear on that flight and the consequences: circling in the sky while a safe landing can be engineered and the crew anesthetizing everyone in coach class to keep them from making trouble.
Please feel free to interpret this metaphorically as the condition of Almodovar's troubled home country Spain if you want but, unfortunately, you'll be giving the film a seriousness it doesn't deserve or, quite apparently, want.
There is a virgin psychic on the flight who predicts important things before the flight is over. She uses a sleeping passenger in coach to relieve her of her chastity which would, no doubt, count.
In first class, they do things like sample the mescaline that had been transported in a passenger's rectum. Lots of Almodovar jokes there, you can be sure.
There's a lot of stuff like that -- bawdy camp soap opera slapstick in the style of early Almodovar. Some of it is funny but the percentage is astonishingly small.
It's like watching a drag show in which the participants and the elect in the audience are having a hilarious time. If you're not in on the joke to the same degree as they are, though, it's rather off-putting after a while.
What might have helped, of course, is if the movie had recognizable movie stars in its major roles, but Almodovar favorites Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas are dispatched early in the film with cameos.
Then, it's just unfamiliar Spanish actors.
It's a film, to be sure, that has its comic moments. They're distressingly sparse from such a major cinematic figure.
Is this Almodovar's way of telling us that he, like Peninsula Airliner 2549, is having landing gear troubles in his career, so that all he can do at the moment is circle around the kind of camp jokes that he became famous for?
One more like this and excitement about his movies may well become a thing of the past.
I'm So Excited
Starring: Javier Camara, Lola Duenas, Cecilia Roth
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Running time: 90 minutes
Rating: R for drug use and much sex and language.
The Lowdown: Passengers trapped on a circling airliner pass the time by camping for each other and having sex. In Spanish with English subtitles.
(c)2013 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.)
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