The '70s era of disaster films - which did bring us such masterpieces as The Poseidon Adventure and eventually Snakes on a Plane - was kicked of by Airport. A simmering melodrama masquerading as an expose of the airline industry it was absorbing, riveting and earned an Oscar for Helen Hayes. The earnestness and plot complications of these all-star, eventually no-star, epics are ripe for parody and Airplane! eventually drove a nail into the coffin of the artistic respect of the entire genre. Pedro Almodovar seems to have an affection for disaster-on-an-airplane flicks and with I'm So Excited he was inspired to gently spoof them. The parody is intermittently successful - if only Karen Black could have been persuaded to at least briefly reprise her iconic performance in Airport '75 - but the film moves along rapidly and has not only a few good laughs but also a delicious gay sensibility that raises it well above a SNL style skit.
The centrepiece is a dance number by the flight attendants and it is a delight though questions about whether we are laughing with their gay flamboyance or at it were distracting. Such joie de vivre is infectious and they do transcend the stereotypes to achieve ecstasy but there are some iffy moments en route. Though in the film's defense the bisexual/coming out plotline - which also provides the emotional payoff that all the other plotlines, and there are many, play for laughs or melodrama - amused me immensely despite some tastily vicious jibes about bisexuality. It may just depend on which sexual stereotype is being lampooned, and personal sensitivities. There may be flight attendants, their dignity utterly destroyed, who wince while they laugh: even Pam Ann doesn't go quite as far as Almodovar's heavy-drinking and drugging sexually rapacious sky stewards.
I'm So Excited is all over the place - though in fairness so were most disaster flicks - in terms of plot and tone but stylistically the '70s candy-coloured esthetic holds everything together. And no-one, no-one, shoots Latin men so stunningly. Antonio Banderas, in a brief cameo, looks hotter than he has in years and when the camera drools lovingly on dreamy-eyed Hugo Silva as the sexually confused co-pilot and hunky Miguel Angel Silvestre as the mysterious groom, little else matters.
The film may not be an artistic triumph like High Heels or Bad Education, but is a totally amiable and amusing Almodovar romp with sugar-coated barbs at sexuality and Spain's economic crisis. And a gay-centric disaster flick is not something one gets to enjoy every day.