Twenty-five years after "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," the Spanish auteur hasn't lost his outrageous sense of humor
If anyone was going to figure out how to create a hybrid between the sex farce and the disaster movie, leave it to master cinematic geneticist Pedro Almodóvar, whose wild new comedy "I'm So Excited!" recalls the sexy outrageousness of "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," the film that made an international star of the Spanish auteur.
On the heels of the haunted romance "Broken Embraces" and the downright Cronenbergian body horror of "The Skin I Live In," "I'm So Excited!" finds Almodóvar in the mood for candy-colored set design, campy lip-syncing and unabashed sexual experimentation, with a splash of bodily-fluid humor.
Thanks to a neglectful ground-crew member and his baggage-handler wife (Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, in cameo appearances), Peninsula Airlines' Mexico-bound flight has damaged landing gear, so instead of taking out over the Atlantic, the plane is circling the skies of Spain, hoping for a safe place to land.
Even without the mechanical failure, the flight promises to be full of drama. Hard-drinking chief flight attendant Joserra (Javier Cámara of "Talk to Her") has been having an affair with pilot Alex (Antonio de la Torre), who's feeling guilty about neglecting his duties to his wife and children. Meanwhile, co-pilot Benito (Hugo Silva) proclaims his heterosexuality loudly and often, but he seems open to letting flight attendant Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo) break through his wall of machismo.
The business-class passengers have their own secrets, from beleaguered financier Ricardo (José Luis Torrijo) to scandalous kept woman Norma (Cecilia Roth of "All About My Mother"), the very mysterious Infante (José María Yazpik) and virginal clairvoyant Bruna (Lola Dueñas of "Volver"). There's also a married couple (Miguel Ángel Silvestre and Laya Martí) who are fast asleep — as is everyone in coach, since they've all been given sleeping pills.
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With disaster imminent, the handful of conscious passengers try their best with the plane's one phone to tie up the loose ends of their lives and to settle things with their loved ones. The plane's crew members, meanwhile, do what they can to liven the mood, whether it's plying the travelers with booze and hard drugs or breaking out into an elaborately choreographed performance of the Pointer Sisters hit that gives the film its U.S. title.
That "I'm So Excited!" sequence perfectly encapsulates the film itself; you'd think a goofy lip-synch number would lose its charm by the end of the first chorus, but the actors (Carlos Areces joins Cámara and Arévalo for the performance) pour themselves into it, and Almodóvar keeps finding wildly inventive ways for this trio of stewards to dance around in the confined space of a commercial airliner.
Similarly, "I'm So Excited!" at first seems like a silly trifle, but the writer-director keeps mixing in genuine character moments and grandiosely bizarre plot twists to keep this very basic story (like the plane itself) aloft throughout, despite a minor bump or two.
After a run of brilliant films that have deftly plumbed the dark side of the human soul, this new comedy makes it clear that Almodóvar remains one of the wildest, raunchiest and most hilarious directors of our generation. "I'm So Excited" gives the summer a much-needed jolt of naughtiness — at 30,000 feet.