Yeah, but it's not too hard to see co-writer John Ridley's experience in the comic book industry, as this film gets to be so cartoonish that you'd think that it's more like "An American Tail". Actually, strike that, this film is more like "TaleSpin", or rather, "Red TailSpin" if it's like any cartoon, not just because it's about planes, but because this film probably shouldn't be mistaken for a Steven Spielberg effort, no matter how much George Lucas has been wishing that someone would praise him like they praise Spielberg ever since "Indiana Jones", or how, well, cheesy Spielberg's last war film was. Okay, thinking about it, maybe this film isn't too much more cheesy than "War Horse", but Spielberg has a generally good track record when it comes to being taken seriously, whereas this film is yet another testament to how George Lucas just cannot catch a break, or at least not when it comes to ethnicities. Now, I'm not saying that George Lucas is kind of discomfortingly unsubtle with his attmepts as appealing towards blacks, though he did get one of the cartoonists for "The Boondocks" to co-write this film's script, but hey, at least Lucas' gunning a touch too blatantly for popular blacks showed us that Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s career is not yet ready for its death rattle. That being said, Gooding's career has to at least be circling the drain at this point, because you know you're in trouble if your presence in a theatrical feature film only reminds certain critics of how much the theatrical feature in question is not up to par with a TV film, which, in all fairness was produced by HBO. Seriously though, it's neat to see good ol' Gooding escape from the prison that is the straight-to-video film sub-industry, and back into the Tuskegee Airmen for the first time since, well, "The Tuskegee Airmen" no less, or at least it would be if this film wasn't so lame. Seriously, George, I want to defend you and all, but then you come out with this, a disaster, though not exactly for lack of trying, because as messy as this film is, at least it goes down in style.
This film isn't exactly visually stunning, yet it doesn't entirely deserve the good looks that it very much has, thanks to the lovely photographic efforts of Terence Blanchard, who delivers on lighting and coloring that is often somewhat average, yet perhaps just as often rich with a handsome kind of animated bounce to color, accentuated by crisp definition, thus making the film engaging to, at the very least, the eyes, though perhaps not quite with as much flare as plenty of technical aspects, or at least up to a point. I honestly went into this film expecting some pretty sharp editing, and while I got just that here and there, much of Michael O'Halloran's and Ben Burtt's editing is workmanlike, with moments in which it surprisingly slips into laziness whether when it's cheaping out with something like very George Lucas-esque wipe transitions, or simply leaving certain clips to awkwardly linger, but in most every other technical department, this film accels about as much you would expect a George Lucas production to accel technically, with Ben Burtt delivering on excellent sound design, and Michael Carlin and Nick Palmer turning in production designs that are surprisingly a touch minimalist, and therefore made underwhelming at times by natural shortcomings, but generally handsomely intricate and convincing. Just as intricate and convincing as the production designs, yet more relatively upstanding, are, of course, the visual effects, which stand to be more dynamic in concept, yet dazzle consistently in their comfortably bonding with this world's environment. Now, people, this film isn't "Star Wars", so don't go in expecting to see a sea of testaments to the glory of digital effects, but do expect to see plenty of sharp visual effects, especially when those effects bring to life some pretty impressive action sequences. Like the visual effects, this film's dogfight sequences stand to be a bit more dynamic, but when it's all said and done, every action set piece delivers, with sweeping staging and thrilling flare, powered by aforementioned technical excellence, that give the final product more livliness than it deserves. For every glaring misstep with resonance, this film turns in a strong stylistic or technical touch, through which you can catch hints of what this film could have been and would have been were the storytelling behind worthy technicality commendable. As things stand, however, this film's storytelling abilities and, by extension, the film itself don't even make it to passable, much less commendable, because as undeniably sharp as this film is technically, the final product proves to be a testament to how consistently upstanding technicality can only do so much to battle back incompetence in most every other department, even when those departments are built around a worthy story concept, which, even then, is hardly without shortcomings.
Fictionalized or not, this piece of history is fascinating and dripping with potential that ultimately goes undercut, not just by the incompetence behind the execution of this film's story concept, but by the story concept's being generic, not so much so that you can't still recognize how much potential there is to squander, though certainly to where it's just as easy to recognize this subject matter's familiarity, which is made even more glaring by genericism in many of the final product's other aspects, including, of all things, score work, as Terence Blanchard turns in a score that not only gets to be overstylized, to the point of sometimes being neither organic with the film's atmosphere and setting, or above emotionally distant mediocrity, but feels just so blandly trite, cheesing things up, though not nearly as much as the dialogue. There is the ever so occasional commendable dialogue piece within John Ridley's and Aaron McGruder's mess of a script, yet on the whole, this film's dialogue is simply blandly average, when not awkwardly wooden, cliched, cheesy and all around near-laughable, especially when executed by more than a few performances that do anything but compensate for, well, anything, much less the weakly-concieved and poorly-delivered dialogue. I've heard quite a few complaints about how some of the acting in this film, particularly that of certain tertiary performers, fall flat, but honestly, I don't think that this film has recieved enough credit for being pretty badly-acted, as plenty of people in this film, whether they be directed poorly or just incompetent, mess up time and again, with even Terrence Howard dulling things up considerably with a one-note and boringly unconvincing performance - powered by lifeless expressiveness, stilted dialogue delivery and an unexpectedly striking lack of charisma - that is still hardly this film's worst, for although there are a couple of performances that prove to be decent, especially during an unexpectedly moving major death scene towards the end, most actors in this film, whether it be for a moment or consistently, awkwardly fall flat in his own distinct fashion, so that you can get a real firm grip on the hefty quantity of weak acting in this hefty cast. Certain key performances are reasonably likable, but much too underwritten to come close to making up for the many performances whose incompetence is near-startlingly undeniable, thus the engagement value of this character study's characters goes diluted, if it was ever really there in the first place, going tainted from the get-go by a considerable lack of development that, in the long run, wouldn't have really counted for too much, seeing as how most every character in this film is written with few layers, but a wealth of - you guessed it - genericism. The character aspects that drive this character study are just so trite and thin, collapsing into flatness that does serious damage to this film's plot, whose execution hardly ends there, as story structuring proves to be uneven, with many an area of bumbling hurrying, broken up by many an area that goes boringly bloated by nothing but bland excess material, if not all-out repetition that leaves plotting to meander aimlessly for two barely paced hour. On paper, this film is all but beyond repair, boasting a shoddy script that could have, in fact, been compensated for with intense directorial effort, something that you better believe isn't going on in this film, as Anthony Hemingway delivers a debut feature film directorial performance that falls flat as so bland and distanced that it disengages, though not so intensely that you don't stick with the film just enough to further find a grip on flaws, which, by this point, slow the final product's momentum down to a halt that is hardly screeching, only be this film hardly had any momentum to begin with. Nothing short of a textbook cinematic disaster, this film, upon its announcement, initially struck me with expectations of goodness, and as details and a weak reception built, I went into the final product expecting something underwhelming, yet decent, or, at the very worst, mediocre, but what I ended up facing was a two-hour chore, rich with technical sharpness, but even richer with storytelling shoddiness that, from the very beginning, is relentless in its distancing resonance with so much unexpected incompetence that you'd be hard pressed to make it long before losing investment, hope and all around patience, thus making for a final product that is barely bearable garbage that squanders potential near-bafflingly and, without lively areas, spawned primarily from technical proficiency, would have been unpalatable.
In conclusion, the film is visually handsome with strong technical value - particularly when it comes to visual effects - that backs up plenty of thrilling action sequences that give you a taste of livliness that this film hasn't earned the right to boast, being cheaply generic, with trite score work and cornball dialogue, often delivered poorly by many an unmissably bad performance that dilutes character engagement value, almost as much as thin character development and structuring, a component to the meanderingly uneven plotting that, when called more to attention by Anthony Hemingway's distanced direction, goes into making "Red Tails" a challenge of a two-hour disaster that wastes potential and tests patients, until the viewer is left exhausted by incompetence.
1.5/5 - Bad