The Spanish provocateur Pedro Almodóvar is among the world's great directors, perhaps the only one living whose name is enough to denote a style, a palette, and a world view. Granted, the adjectival form is awkward to wrangle (Almodóvarian? Almodóvar-like? Almodóvar-esque?) but the movies have usually been provocative, poetic and, unlike our modifiers, graceful.
Almodóvar's gift has been an elegant ability to mine heart out of camp, and he has done so with virtuosic ease. A good example is "Talk to Her" (2002), one of the great films of the last decade, the mere memory of which is enough to cause the viewer to clutch his/her heart. But in "I'm So Excited" -- Almodóvar's self-proclaimed return to his '90s roots -- the director doesn't quite pull off the balancing act. His subtext about mortality and imagination is offset by the desperation of the humor. And he creates a vehicle too broad for the tarmac.
Aboard what appears to be a doomed flight from Madrid to Mexico City, three flamboyant male flight attendants/cabaret queens hand out drugs and turn first-class into a party. For all the mirth, it's an edge-of-the-abyss scenario, defiantly existential -- if we're going down, we're going down in flames! But despite some delightful lip-synching to the Pointer Sisters, cameos by Almodovar vets Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, and several sequences of Almodóvarian eloquence, it's a movie stuck in a holding pattern.
PLOT When a plane develops mechanical difficulties midair, the flight crew tries to make everyone's last moments more pleasurable.
RATING R (strong sexual content/drug content)
CAST Javier Camara, Cecilia Roth, Carlos Areces
BOTTOM LINE Buoyant and hopeful, but not exactly first-class Almodovar.