Flight of the Phoenix (4/10)

by Tony Medley

God help me, another remake! When will this insanity stop? Now weíve got one that is completely derivative. The only saving grace to this one is listening to Dennis Quaid deliver more corny lines. The jury has come in. Nobody comes close to the number of bad lines this guy utters badly. To think that heís stepping into the role of the legendary Jimmy Stewart, well, the mind boggles. Letís cut to the chase.

Frank Townes (our boy Dennis) is the pilot who crashes his plane and passengers in the middle of the desert. Kelly (Miranda Otto), the only woman on board (more about that later), asks Frank to do something after previously giving an emotional speech to lift spirits. He replies, ďAre you kidding me? Iíd do anything to avoid another hopes and dreams speech.Ē

Later Kelly asks Frank why he didnít tell them something negative. Frank says, ďI didnít want to give them something else to worry about.Ē They are stranded in the middle of the hottest desert in the world in the hottest month, nobody knows where they are, and he doesnít want to give them something else to worry about?

Dennis is so proud of this thing that his name is actually above the title! This guy has the worldís worst judgment.

Hereís another amazing line that doesnít come from Dennis. One of the passengers is giving another speech:

Thereís only one thing in life thatís important, someone to love;

If not that, something to hope for;

If not that, something to do!

Now, forgive me for being terminally logical, but if thereís only one thing in life thatís important, there canít be an alternative, can there? So this guy has only one thing in life thatís important, but heís got two alternatives. If Iím writing a script, and I write the line that begins, ďThereís only one thingÖĒ is it possible that I can immediately thereafter write a line that begins, ďIf not that,Ö?Ē Do screenwriters remember what they just wrote? Do they read what they write? Do they THINK? Where is Aristotle when we need him? Ah, but thatís what we have Dennis Quaid for. Heíll say ANYTHING (even though he didnít say this; hey, Iím entitled to be illogical)!

The last movie I saw Dennis in was The Day After Tomorrow, a logic buster if there ever was one. But this one is in the same league. Consider:

Itís hot. The hottest desert in the world and itís the hottest month. In Jimmy Stewartís movie, which was made in 1965, the heat was palpable. Jimmyís face looked terrible, his lips horribly chapped. Even near the end of their ordeal, Dennis looks like he could walk into a bar and bed every girl in there; not a mark on his face. Nobody sweats. They sit out in the sun. Instead of covering up, the men work shirtless! Apparently Director John Moore has never been to the desert. Have you ever seen a Bedouin, John? Ever seen an Arab? Didnít you see Lawrence of Arabia (1962), for heavenís sake? What do they wear, John? Galibiyeh and Burqas, thatís what! They cover every bit of skin they can. Why do you think they do that, John? Because of the sun! Do you really think itís reasonable for you to have your actors working in the hottest desert in the hottest month in the brightest sun SHIRTLESS?

One of the passengers strikes out on his own. Frank is pressured by Kelly to go after him. It looks like they walk a long way. Not to worry. He catches up with the guy and talks him into coming back, so they stroll back, none the worse for wear. Oh, did I mention that it is the hottest month of the hottest desert in the world? And they must have walked several miles. No problem!

Kelly is the only woman among many heterosexual males with death imminent. Never is there a sexual problem. Yeah, sure.

The engineering is goofy. Hereís what pilot and longtime TV Director Bill Wyse says about the takeoff of the Phoenix:

During the takeoff, a bullet supposedly disconnected a rudder cable attached to a rudder bar behind the pilot. The "designer" risks his life to reattach it. The Fairchild C-119 transport used in the film is powered by two 3,500-hp Wright R-3350-85 engines. With such power, rudder control is critical during takeoff. Since the Phoenix only had a tail skid and no steerable tailwheel, a working rudder is even more critical for directional control. A single 3,500-hp engine at full power produces tremendous torque forces pulling the aircraft to the left.  Under circumstances shown in the film, lost rudder control would surely result in a violent left ground loop that would probably not be survivable. It's sad when screenwriters won't make a 1 minute phone call to an aviation expert before inventing these events.

After theyíve been crashed awhile, Frank tells them that nobody knows where they are and they are 200 miles off course, so the chances of them being discovered are slim. Elliott (Giovanni Robisi, the only good thing in the film) says heís an engineer and he has investigated the wreckage and he thinks they can build a plane out of it and get out of there. Frank says no way, so they forget it. Is Frank the dumbest protagonist in the history of film? They are stranded in the middle of the desert. Nobody knows where they are. Nobody can find them. They canít walk out. Hereís a possibility. And Frank rejects it?

And you think this job is easy.

December 17, 2004

The End