DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    James Franco as BLAINE RAWLINGS
    David Ellison as EDDIE BEAGLE
    Martin Henderson as REED CASSIDY
    Jennifer Decker as LUCIENNE

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: MGM

    Directed by: Tony Bill
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Ever since “Saving Private Ryan” broke up the box office and took home an Oscar, there has been a fascination with World War II. Arguably, this WWII fascination goes back as far as the war itself, but now it is in its modern age. Even recently, we have seen two WWII features make some noise – Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

However, there really hasn’t been the focus on World War I in the cinema. Part of this may be because the WWI generation is all but gone while we still have plenty who remember WWII. It’s such a distant past to us now that we forget the wars (and specifically the American involvement) were more than 20 years apart.

While the spirit of World War II is much more patriotic to Americans, probably because Pearl Harbor was such a personal attack, there’s a lot to honor about those who fought in World War I. The recent film “Flyboys” takes a hearty stab at making gripping drama about the war the world thought would end all wars.

The film tells the story of a group of American pilots who join the French air force in order to fly planes in the European conflict. Of course, planes were actually a relatively new invention at the time. The Germans were using various flying aircraft, including zeppelins, to bomb their targets. The quick adaptation of airplanes played a significant role in the defense.

Blaine Rawlings (James Franco) is the main character, who leaves America to escape bad debt. What seems to be a potentially glorious job has sudden dire consequences when he learns the disastrously short life-span of a World War I pilot. Things are hairy up there in the sky, and things get bloody.

While Rawlings is struggling to bond with the other pilots while suffering their losses, he falls in love with a local French girl. Soon, the rag-tag group of American pilots become heroes in a war that doesn’t even officially involve the Americans yet.

“Flyboys” marked the third film in 2006 that had the tepid James Franco in a starring role. While Franco did a fine job as young Harry Osborn in the “Spider-Man” films, these three subsequent releases proved that his pretty face isn’t enough to carry a film to success. All three of his movies in 2006 (“Annapolis,” “Tristan + Isolde” and now “Flyboys”) met with box office disappointment.

The saving grace of “Flyboys” is that it goes beyond Franco’s mediocre acting. Like a war, this story has two fronts. The weaker front is the actual human drama. I found myself bored with Rawling’s wooing of the French girl, and ultimately his relationship with the other pilots was only so-so.

However, the second front of “Flyboys” is the reason to see the film. The airborne sequences are incredible to watch. It’s sad so few people saw these in the theatres because on the big screen, it was so much more impressive. However, after viewing the movie a second time on my television at home, it’s still worth it to watch.

War enthusiasts, especially World War I enthusiasts, will love this movie. It’s a History Channel documentary with great special effects. The historical significance of the film is more important that the actual story and characters, showing us a realistic portrayal of the heroes of the first World War. Weak on story, but strong on action, “Flyboys” is actually worth seeing for the effects alone.

The “Flyboys” DVD comes in two different packages. There’s the single-disc edition and a 2-disc collector’s edition. While these two editions contain plenty of special features (from 15 minutes of deleted scenes to multiple featurettes), the screening copy I received did not. There is a fairly informative commentary with director Tony Bill and producer Dean Devlin, however. Additional special features include the trailers for various films in release.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1) – enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish language tracks. Spanish subtitles. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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