CT FILM FEST REVIEW: “The Flyboys”

(Here’s Erik Ofgang’s review of “Flyboys,” the opening film of the CT Film Festival)

Despite some implausible (and I mean IMPOSSIBLE) aerial sequences and a jet engine blast of clichés, “The Flyboys” still manages to deliver its fair share of genuine thrills, laughs and just plain adventure movie fun.

The film kicks off the opening celebration of the Connecticut Film Festival at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Directed by Rocco DeVilliers, it’s part buddy picture, part mafioso family drama and part runaway airplane thriller.

Sometimes it tries to jam in too many different elements, but for the most part the strength of the characters and old-fashioned, aw-shucks good nature of this film keeps it soaring.

Here’s the story: Jason (Jesse James) is the new kid at school. When he sees Kyle (Reiley McClendon) getting picked on by the resident bully, he steps in to help. Jason and Kyle join forces to kick some bully butt; by day’s end they’re the best of friends and Kyle’s uncle, who works at a small airport, has taken them up for a short flight.

In a subsequent visit to the airport, the two friends sneak onto a fancy private plane. With classic movie kid foolishness, Kyle tells Jason there’s nothing to worry about because the plane’s owner lives in Vegas and never uses it.

Of course, Kyle is way wrong. While the kids are on board some gangsters get in, the kids – to avoid being seen – hide in the plane’s cargo area. Before you can say ‘I saw this coming,’ they’re up in the air and soon find themselves in an empty plane with a ticking bomb.

So where did everyone go, and why the bomb?

It turns out mafia brothers Angelo (Tom Sizemore) and Silvio (played excellently by Stephen Baldwin) had been in the midst of a family feud. Silvio didn’t think his rich and powerful older brother was going to bail him out of massive gambling debt. To get back at his brother and earn some much needed cash, Silvio launched a daring heist on Angelo’s plane.

The drama involving that heist is what the boys landed in when they snuck onto the plane. Luckily Kyle knows a little about flying and Jason is one tough kid. But how will they get the plane down? Will they crash into a mountainside? Will they land in the middle of a highway full of speeding cars and trucks, or worse?

You’ll find yourself cheering them on as the story unfolds. The aerial cinematography is great, so is the acting and some of the heart-stopping stunts.

Both child actors James and McClendon are believable as kids caught in the adventure of their lives. The mafia characters are also fun to watch, especially a pair of hitmen who – when impersonating FBI agents – refer to themselves unimaginatively as agent Clinton and agent Bush.

At 118 minutes, the film could use some editing to keep it more focused. But “The Flyboys” is one fun ride that the whole family can enjoy – just leave your cynicism and understanding of gravity at the door.

“The Flyboys” is at The Palace Theater Tuesday at 7 p.m. It will be screened again 2 p.m. Saturday at Ives Concert Hall.

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