Flyboys Tony Bill

Ah, WWI: close enough to us to be a modern war but far enough away to allow projections of whatever clichés we choose. Thus Flyboys will not ruffle any antiwar feathers even while fetishising the military hardware that made "a new kind of hero.” James Franco is the lone name amongst a squadron of nonentity American recruits; they’ve enlisted with the French "Lafayette Escadrille” prior to America’s entrance into the war and they’ve got some hard knocks to learn under the tutelage of the dashing Jean Reno. Will the squad keep it together under German fire? Will Franco gain the love of a porcelain-skinned Frenchwoman? Will Reno cash a paycheque for six weeks work? There isn’t anything new here, from the rag-tag recruits to the Star Wars-esque dogfights to the grizzled old vet who’s seen too much and hates that German ace who always dodges the bullet. Still, the filmmakers manage to make things seem that much more ludicrous; they patch things over with memories of other movies and laughably misinformed takes on how a fresh-faced boy of the time might act. One would object to the easygoing take on "adventure” in a war zone, especially these days, but since neither the filmmakers nor the target audience have made the right connections I won’t make them here. The whole thing is so completely divorced from reality that it’s quite pleasingly preposterous and cheesy enough to kill a lazy Saturday afternoon of channel surfing on cable. Disc one of the two-disc edition features a commentary by director Tony Bill and producer Dean Devlin that’s more about ephemera than artistic decisions. Disc two features six deleted scenes, a DVD-Rom game, six fairly detailed featurettes on historical background, the special effects, the various types of planes, etc., and five collectible cards. (MGM)