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Review: Red Tails

By / 01.20.12

SHOOT HIM DOWN, MIKE! THAT'S THE GERMAN WHO MOLESTED YOU! /Wire joke


Corny movies are a civil right!

If you want to see a movie that tells the inspiring true story of the Tuskeegee Airmen, go rent The Tuskeegee Airmen. If you want to see a remake of that with Anakin Skywalker dialog, CGI explosions, and a nameless bad guy with a scar on his face who says things like “Die, you foolish African!” go see Red Tails.

There isn’t that much to say about Red Tails, really. It’s the identical plot of Tuskeegee Airmen but worse on every level. But it isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, either. The protagonist isn’t a horse, for example. It’s nice to look at, the war scenes are decent enough, and every ten minutes or so, Terrence Howard shows up to read an uplifting speech directly into the camera in the voice of Maya Angelou.

The two main characters are Lightning (David Oyelowo) and Easy (Nate Parker), the Malcolm and Martin, the Maverick and Ice Man, the Magneto and Professor X of the airborne civil rights movement. Easy drinks too much (though we never see it actually affect him) and Lightning is a hothead, the most talented pilot in the squadron, but goes off half-cocked every time someone calls him chicken. Wait, no, I’m thinking of Marty Mcfly. By “chicken” I meant the N-word. Lightning gets the love interest in the film, an Italian girl he meets when, no joke, she blows him a kiss as he’s flying over her house. He can spot beauty from thousands of feet up, so he goes to her house and takes her on a whirlwind courtship that takes place exclusively on “Italian countryside” b-roll from Olive Garden commercials. He asks for her hand in marriage while men in mustaches play the accordion and grey-haired grandmama’s in half-shawls wring their hands and everyone’s cool with it because Italians are notoriously open-minded about interracial dating.

But enough about-a the story. MAMMA MIA, SHE’S GOT-A SOME A-SPICY DIALOG!

The basic story is that the 332nd distinguishes themselves by putting the bombers ahead of themselves (which you know from the commercials), in contrast to the white pilots, who are only out for glory. George Lucas reportedly directed some of the reshoots for Red Tails himself, which I assume means a lot of the aerial combat scenes, because the dialog during those is the most hilariously on-the-nose thing I’ve heard since Episode I.

[First scene, first line of dialog] WHITE PILOTS: “Germans! Let’s get ‘em!”

[First time the 332nd shows up as a bomber escort] WHITE BOMBER PILOT: “What the… he’s colored! What the hell do we do!?”

[Five seconds later] “Look! He’s givin’ up glory to save our asses!”

[Five seconds after that] “We’re almost home. I hope we meet up with those red tails next time!”

[Later] “I guess there’s a lot more to you coloreds than I thought!”

Then there’s the prison escape scene where the white POW grinningly tells Mike from The Wire as he hops into the tunnel “At least they won’t see you at night!”

George Lucas and co. screened Red Tails before a packed house of cheering black leaders including Spike Lee, David Dinkins, Al Sharpton and others, and much has been made of Red Tails as a breakthrough for equality, for black fighters finally getting “the John Wayne treatment,” as Red Tails writer Aaron MacGruder put it. I’m not sure getting the right to be spoonfed obvious, vaguely-insulting propaganda is something worth cheering about, but I guess it’s not for me to judge. Because, like all things George Lucas, IT’S FOR KIDS! Water is wet, the sky is blue, Nazis are sub-human enemies who can be burned alive without the slightest twinge of remorse in righteous wars for God, freedom, and country. HOW YOU LIKE THAT, MR. HITLER! USA! USA! USA!

GRADE: C


TAGSANTHONY HEMINGWAYGeorge LucasRED TAILSreviews

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