Release Date: September 22, 2006
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Movie of the Day for Tuesday, August 22, 2006
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Didn't Howard Hughes do this already?

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129/200 Max Braden Cliche adventure. I actually rested my eyes for a bit.

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"Flyboys" is one of those movies that tends to generate more questions than answers. The basic story concerns the adventures of the Lafayette Escadrille, young American fighter pilots who volunteered for the French military before the U.S. entered WWI. After consulting various crystal balls, tea leaves, and psychic hotlines, we found few more details about the movie, though.

This movie has not been described as a remake of the 1958 film "Lafayette Escadrille" directed by William Wellman, but we can only assume someone, somewhere, sometime will say Wellman's film "provided inspiration" for "Flyboys" (which is always the best way to throw a bone to the copyright lawyers). "Lafayette Escadrille" was Wellman's swan song and, unfortunately, a rather tedious boy-meets-girl-who-turns-out-to-be-a-French-prostitute story.

David Ward rewrote a script originated by Phil Sears and Blake Evans. Ward was the writer behind "The Sting," "Major League," "Sleepless in Seattle," and "The Milagro Beanfield War," so he obviously has writing skills in a variety of movie genres. Tony Bill is a proven director, at least in television with critically praised episodes of "Chicago Hope," "Felicity," and "Monk," as well as films such as My Bodyguard. And as an actor, Bill has been all over the map with a great part "Must Love Dogs," but also a role in the heartwarming, tear-jerking Pamela Anderson vehicle "Barb Wire."

Dean Devlin and Marc Frydman are the producers, and they pulled together a reported $60 million budget for the film. Devlin was a producer for "Stargate," "Godzilla," "Independence Day," "The Patriot," and "Cellular." All of these movies seem to fall on the "Pearl Harbor" end of the spectrum, but Frydman was behind "Boiling Point," "Nil by Mouth," "The Contender," and most recently, "The Jacket." So Frydman seems to favor films falling the gap between art-house flick and cineplex mainstay. Perhaps the direction "Flyboys" takes will depend on a Devlin/Frydman cage match. Or do you think they'd prefer mud-wrestling?

Franco has great potential for this film. He's done well in dramas by first time directors -- just look at his role in the first film Nicholas Cage directed, "Sonny." His work in "City By The Sea" showed he can work very well with mature, established (okay .. old) actors like Robert DeNiro, so pairing him with Jean Reno makes sense.

This film could be the breakout that Franco is looking for, just as "Top Gun" was for Tom Cruise. Franco is about same age as Cruise was he filmed "Top Gun," and is in a similar place in his career. "Top Gun" propelled Cruise into the upper reaches of stardom after his big break in "Risky Business" and decent roles in a few other movies. If it's any good at all, "Flyboys" might give Franco the same sort of boost after his big break in the "Spiderman" franchise, nice reviews in a few other films, and some work on television (including a 2002 Emmy Nomination for his work in the television movie, "James Dean").

However, even with this bucket of information, we have few prognostications. Will it be "Pearl Harbor" set in the First World War, rather than the Second? Or will it be "Elizabeth" meets "Hell's Angels," the Howard Hughs epic about WWI aerial combat? All the pieces are in place for the film to be set up as an action-oriented blockbuster that unfortunately flops when it hits the theaters, or a character-driven drama that vastly exceeds expectations of the conventional wisdom. Keep your fingers crossed. (Joel Corcoran/BOP)

Vital statistics for Flyboys
Main Cast James Franco, Jean Reno
Director Tony Bill
Screenwriter David Ward, Phil Sears
Distributor MGM
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site
Rating PG-13
Screen Count 2,033
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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