Let me get my one real criticism of this film out of the way. Ok. The romance. I didn't need any romance in this film. I would have been happy if the romance had been left out altogether and left for Spike Lee to handle in the prequel or Lee Daniels in the sequel. George Lucas was quoted in a NYT article saying the film's target audience was black teenagers--boys I'm sure. So for the one depiction of love in the movie being one airman's head-over-heels love for an unattractive Italian woman he could barely communicate with was awkward and out of place in the film, and off-putting to me. I just needed to see at least one of the airmen writing home to his sweet Odessa, or going on about how his Caroline smells just like sweet honeysuckle off the vine, or getting letters from Bessie and the kids back home, or tucking a picture of his mother into his vest pocket before leaving on a mission. SOMEthing. If I was gonna see some love, particularly in a film like this one, I needed a black woman to be the recipient and/or giver of it. The closest thing we got to seeing black love was the one airman who took his picture of Black Jesus on every mission. I actually quite liked that relationship.
Other than that, I enjoyed Red Tails. It was cheesy and corny and whatever other food-word that connotes being uncool. It was kind of awesome in that way. I totally agree with George Lucas' NYT interview when he says, "They have a right to have their history just like anybody else does. And they have a right to have it kind of Hollywood-ized and aggrandized and made corny and wonderful just like anybody else does. Even if that's not the fashion right now." Among black films that have made it to the big screen with content quality ranging from the lows of Soul Plane to the heights of The Color Purple, there has to be room for black films with decent-quality content sprinkled with a little cornball.
Red Tails has made about $48 million since the film opened last month. That's still $10 million shy of the film's budget, but not a bad showing for an all black, non-comedy. Plus, if I know George Lucas like I think I do, aside from a prequel and sequel, I'm sure there are action figures and video games in there somewhere. There is money to be made off this film yet.
No film starring mostly black people would have gotten a $58mil budget without having some historical significance. Hollywood and the mass consumers love a good black-struggle nostalgia film (see "The Color Purple" and "The Help"), but you'll never see a black "Garden State" (one of my favorite movies) because the masses don't care to see depictions of our ever day unless we're on "The Wire" or in a Tyler Perry film (but big ups to Tyler Perry's newest film Good Deeds in theaters Friday, which promises to have me eating my words here--we'll see). I'd love to see dark comedies and mellow dramas like "Young Adult" featuring all black actors on big screens, but as long as good black non-comedies trickle into theaters at barely a film-a-year pace, I rely on straight to DVD films for that. Unfortunately, people say "straight to DVD" like that's a bad thing, but there are many, very well-done low-budget black films that go straight to DVD. Perhaps, just as unfortunate, is the fact that in a post Tyler Perry America, where Hollywood likes a bankable formula, I'm afraid that "Red Tails", which was a good, but not great, movie won't open any floodgates of financial backers for good quality black stories. I hope I'm wrong. At any rate, hoorah and amen for a story about young black men who found pride in working towards and acheiving excellence.
Oh, and y'all know I can't get through a review of a film featuring an all black male cast without objectifying those men by talking about the eye candy. Too much for a married lady like me to go into, but let me just say this...Ne-Yo has the most beautiful smile in Hollywood and the rainbow of young and older chocolatey goodness presented in Red Tails thoroughly satisfied my sweet tooth. David Oyelowo, oh my.
Here are most of them in a really funny interview. I HEART Cuba Gooding, Jr. he's so funny. Enjoy!
Did I say David Oyelowo? Ok. Just checking.