For a while there it looked as though Pedro Almodovar had completely shed his old self. The director who used to be known as the John Waters of Spain, whose films were often shriekfests of bad taste and advanced sexual wrongness, had taken a turn for the Sirk and made a string of acclaimed films about women's lives -- All About My Mother, Volver, Talk to Her, Broken Embraces -- that were also the sorts of movies you could watch with your grandmother.
This is not that kind of movie. This is his Soul Plane.
You can take a holiday from lowbrow, maybe go someplace classy, but it'll find you again. With Almodovar it's an essential part of his being and thanks to his frequently brazen touch, also one also of his spikier, tackier charms. So after the seriously disturbing arranged marriage of extreme plastic surgery, sex slavery and the art of Louise Bourgeois in The Skin I Live In, the man probably wanted a little sorbet in between courses of people giving him awards and calling him a genius. You can't blame him for feeling nostalgic for the rebel status he courted during the raunchier, wilder 1980s.
Set almost entirely in the cabin of a passenger jet due to crash, I'm So Excited! is what happens when a disaster movie gets hijacked by a sex comedy. Knowing they're unlikely to survive the landing, the already distracted crew and their unhappy passengers (including Almodovar returnees Cecelia Roth, Antonio de la Torre, Javier Camara and Raul Arevalo -- the Banderas and Cruz cameos are just that and don't be late or you'll miss them) decide that the only rational response is throwing all caution and propriety to the wind. They drink, do drugs, smoke and have sex, lots of it, fighting off the fear of death with a mile-high orgasm jamboree. And with no Karen Black to fly the plane you might go looking for a quickie with a drunken seat-mate yourself.
The colorfully coarse proceedings start with a psychic who contacts the dead through rubbing men's crotches and then zig-zags to mescaline overdosing, lip-syncing to the title's Pointer Sisters song in its entirety, attempted suicide, mysterious assassins, poor luggage handling, sex-stalking, crime, ejaculation, prayer, DL bisexuality, extreme gay prancing (see: Pointer Sisters) and something called a Valencia cocktail that involves apricot brandy. Of course.
Serious-minded cinephiles still in thrall to the deeply dark Skin I Live In could view this as a regressive misstep, a wallow in silliness that's best left in the past. But taken as a whole it feels more a restatement of earlier lunatic principles or, at the very least, a sloppy drunken rager with friends who draw on your face with a Sharpie after you throw up and pass out. You thought The Hangover Part III would be the movie to fulfill that summer entertainment duty, but you thought wrong. Almodovar just pantsed you. Take a joke.
STAR RATING: 3.5/5