Those who have been saying that Pedro Almodóvar's I'm So Excited is a step down for Spain's brilliant provocateur have forgotten about those raunchy, outrageous comedies he did in his wild youth, such as Labyrinth of Passion (gay terrorists), Dark Habits (gay nuns) and Matador (gay bullfighters).
But his output of the past 15 years has leaned toward ambitious kitchen-sinkers, such as Talk To Her, Volver and Broken Embraces. Perhaps the ol' dude needed to take a breather.
I'm So Excited, whose Spanish title is Los amantes pasajeros ("the passenger lovers" is about right), is a flamboyant farce at 40,000 feet. The occupants of a jet en route to Mexico City slip into amoral madness once they learn that the plane's landing gear has malfunctioned and they are searching for a vacant runway on which to make an emergency landing.
I'm so not kidding about the amoral madness thing: The pilots and flight attendants (who are all either gay or bi) start chugging tequila to calm their nerves. And this is long before the crew serves mescaline-spiked Valencia cocktails to the panicking business-class passengers (a collection of eccentric yet highfalutin' archetypes that includes a disgraced financier, a celebrity diva-turned-madam and, for some reason, a virginal psychic). Can an orgy be far behind?
Almodóvar does throw in some social commentary in this zany, bawdy nonsense. As the privileged business-class passengers party like there's no tomorrow, all the working-class schlubs in economy have been drugged by their attendants and are asleep during the entire ordeal, oblivious to the possible doom that awaits them.
But even with that subtext, Almodóvar still appears to be doing this just for kicks. He populates the cast with some of his most oft-used players—notably Cecilia Roth, Javier Cámara and, in a pre-credits cameo, Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, who set the wheels of the airplane, and the story, in motion by accidentally sabotaging them.
Even when Almodóvar injects moments of soapy drama, the movie still retains an unfiltered silliness that makes the whole thing impossible to despise. There's even a choreographed dance number where the flight attendants lip-synch and groove to—what else?— the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited."
A ribald, ridiculous party in the sky, I'm So Excited is basically Almodóvar's Soul Plane—and I mean that as a compliment.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Parental advisory."