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7/04/2013

Review: 'I'm So Excited!', Directed by Pedro Almodovar


There's a double meaning behind the title of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar's I'm So Excited! Most obviously it's a euphemism for being sexually stimulated, of which EVERY character in this extremely broad comedy is. But also it's an expression of Almodovar's enthusiastic return to the flamboyant films of his early career. Just a couple of years removed from freaking us out with The Skin I Live In, Almodovar now wants to make us laugh. It just seems like maybe he forgot how.


The greatest moment of delight, besides the rolling of the closing credits, comes in the beginning with a pair of welcome cameos by Almodovar favorites Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas as a pair of airline baggage handlers. An humorous but understandable screw-up causes the landing gear on a plane headed to Mexico City to malfunction, and now they're forced to circle around Toledo (not the one in Ohio!) burning off fuel until a runway can be secured. The jet isn't the only thing going around in circles without any clear destination, that much is for sure.

Nearly all of the film takes place in business class where a romper room of wacky characters obsesses over sex and their various secrets, none of which turn out to be all that revelatory. Three campy gay flight attendants (Javier Cámara, Carlos Areces, Raúl Arévalo) prance and sing and dance throughout the cabin, at least when they aren't doping up the economy class passengers or giving random blowjobs to the pilots, both of whom are in the midst of sexual identity crises. Meanwhile there's a psychic (Lola Duenas) on board headed to Mexico to help solve a crime, but she really just wants to lose her virginity on the flight, and trust that she will do anything or anybody to make it happen. A pair of newlyweds have their best sex when one is asleep; an actor is skipping out on his suicidal girlfriend (another pleasing cameo by Paz Vega); a dominatrix (Cecilia Roth) with a high-class clientele thinks the plane may have been sabotaged to kill her; a nervous banker who may have committed fraud; and a mysterious stranger all make up what is an aggressively annoying and unfunny group of characters recycling the same lewd jokes until you become numb to it. The monotony of liquor guzzling and BJ gags is broken up when the slutty crew gives a flaming performance of The Pointer Sisters' titular 'I'm So Excited", and it's momentarily charming until you realize they're going to do the whole damn song. 

Because of Almodovar's incredibly varied and wildly successful career, the inclination is to give I'm So Excited every opportunity to improve. There are still moments where the auteur in him shines through, and with the plane's lack of progress and uncertain future he seems to be making a larger point about the journey mattering far more than the ultimate destination. But the journey in this case is perpetually stuck in neutral, as one sexually-charged slapstick episode goes nowhere fast. Almodovar's no stranger to soapy melodramas, but he chooses to go bawdy rather than giving us a reason to be interested in any of his characters. It's good to see Almodovar go back to his roots, but I'm So Excited never truly takes flight.