Pedro Almodovar’s legion of fans will perhaps find some reason to praise his latest, “I’m So Excited,” but the sad fact is that the farce set aboard an airplane suffering a mechanical problem itself quickly stalls and sputters, and never reaches cruising altitude. It makes every effort to be wickedly wacky and light-footedly seductive and fails at virtually every turn.
And turn endlessly is what the plane does. Because the landing gear is jammed as the result of an accident involving the ground crew pre-takeoff (a prologue with flat cameos for Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz), the craft bound for Mexico City instead circles around Toledo while the control tower searches fruitlessly for an airstrip to accommodate an emergency landing. All the coach passengers but one are sound asleep—the result of drugs administered by the flight crew—to keep them docile, but one, Bruna (Lola Duenas)—who claims to be psychic—ambles into first class and finds out what’s happening.
There the cabin and cockpit are pretty much controlled by three swishy male stewards—Joserra (Javier Camara), Fajas (Carlos Areces) and Ulloa (Raul Arevalo), who seem to have little deference for the pilot, Alex (Antonio de la Torre) and Benito (Hugo Silva), his second-in-command. Of the six passengers, four are still awake: Ricardo (Guillermo Toledo), an actor with a suicidal lover back on the ground; Mas (Jose Luis Torrijo), a corrupt financier fleeing the law; Infante (Jose Maria Yazpik), a darkly handsome fellow who turns out to have criminal connections; and Norma (Cecilia Roth), an infamous dominatrix. Those catching a nap are newlyweds (Miguel Angel Silvestre and Laya Marti), though the former awakens while the latter snoozes through most of the picture.
What follows is the usual Almodovarian round of sexual pyrotechnics, with Bruna eventually overcoming her shyness and losing her virginity to a handsome stud she takes advantage of as he snores away in the economy cabin, the pilot and co-pilot both eventually confessing their AC-DC proclivities, and Norma regaling the assembled multitude with tales of her exploits with men of influence. The behavior is lubricated by the drinks the attendants mix for everybody, including the crew, and the trio even aim to lighten the atmosphere by doing a musical number, lip-synching to the title song. Meanwhile some slight melodrama is added as, using a phone that in another mechanical malfunction broadcasts conversations through the plane, Mas tries to reconnect with his long-estranged daughter and Ricardo deals with his suicidal girlfriend and her chum, whom he’s also involved with (Blanca Suarez).
All of this is supposed to have the fizz of an uncorked bottle of champagne, one supposes, but in this case it’s distinctly flat—partially the result of the claustrophobic setting, which presumably represents another of Almodovar’s nods to Hitchcock (this time, “Lifeboat”). The three stewards, who are supposed to be infectiously screwy, prove a dispiritingly stereotypical lot, and as the imperious Norma, Roth comes across as a singularly charmless diva. The other cast members go through the paces Almodovar demands of them, but there’s a listless quality to their work that doesn’t give the supposedly hilarious high-jinks the pizzazz they need. Naturally the physical production (art direction by Antxon Gomez, costumes by Tatiana Hernandez and cinematography by Jose Luis Alcaine) gives the movie the colorful ambience that’s an Almodovar trademark (within the limitations of the aircraft interior, of course), and Alberto Iglesias’ jaunty music is part of the package as well.
But unlike Peninsula Flight 2549, “I’m So Excited” never takes off. By the close you might wish you’d been that on-board bride, sleeping through all the frantic and unfunny frenzy.