Sunday, January 22, 2012

01-21-12: Flying with your tail between your legs.

RED TAILS (2012) (PG-13) 120 mins. *1/2 D: Anthony Hemingway. Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tristan Wilds, David Oyelowo.

The 332nd Fighter Group also known as the Tuskegee Airmen, a crew of African-American pilots, are finally given the opportunity to engage in real combat after spending months flying meaningless missions.

Just reading about the Tuskegee Airmen you just know their story will make one helluva movie. Unfortunately and surprisingly, this is not that movie. If you look at films such as "Miracle at St. Anna," "The Walking Dead" or "Glory," "Glory" is to "The Empire Strikes Back" as "Red Tails" is to "The Phantom Menace." Meaning you know what to expect but what you see doesn't even come close to it.

"Red Tails" is gratuitous in its cliches, stereotypes and one-dimensional characters. The film opens with the title card "Inspired by True Events" or something to that effect. So right away you know you're not getting the definitive story that these me so rightly deserved. I have not seen the HBO film but I'm willing to bet the characters were better developed. It's unfortunate that they had to resort to heavy-handed, obvious cliches to drive home the racial tensions that existed at the time. In fact, some of the dialogue sounded like it was written by Lucas himself.

The one moment where I literally wanted to throw something at the screen was at its conclusion. The Tuskegee Airmen are honored for their valiant and courageous duty. What should have been a truly stirring moment becomes corny beyond belief as the scene is underscored by "America the Beautiful." I'm not being unpatriotic here, the use of that song just seems to send the wrong vibe and makes you want to laugh. Which I nearly did. Lastly, the dogfights suffer from deja vu that it lacks any real sense of excitement or danger. They were pretty flat.

The men of the 332nd deserve a better film made about their service to this country. This film does them a disservice by making them out to be a bunch of generic flyboys who happened to be black. Give this one a flyover and drop a bomb on it.

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