Pauls Valley Democrat
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
One of the most wonderful things about historical record is just when we think we have it all written down, something new arises to remind us we still have a way to go. Sure, Hollywood is about as reliable in depicting reality as a basement geek’s Wikipedia entry, but even in those missteps it can inspire some to want to learn something they wouldn’t have otherwise.
While the actual heroics of the Tuskegee Airmen could be debatably different than this film based on them, it does not ignore the fact that a lot of barriers had to be overcome in order to achieve what they did. There’s a level of genuine and clean entertainment on display, with no doubt a heavy dose of George Lucas campyness, yet still a decent effort of engagement through storytelling. “Red Tails” is not so much about picking any one character to root for above the rest, but a struggle waiting for what your imagination can deliver.
The plot focus begins during the latter part of World War II, around 1944, on a group of these fighter pilots not getting much action at all other than mopping up leftovers in Italy. Still, that doesn’t stop hot shots like Joe “Lightning” Little (David Oyelowo) from trying to push the limits to impress his fellow airmen, which is literally driving the squad leader Martin “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker) to drink.
Just when they seem to have no chance of ever getting to kick some Nazi asphalt, they are given a series of missions through the efforts of their commander Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) with the chance to not only find personal glory, but show how they are just as qualified as their white counterparts. Though it is easy to find plenty of corny lines and clichés to get caught up in, the three previously mentioned characters do provide rather compelling sub stories which helps carry things for the most part. Really the only character that seemed completely cardboard was the supposed second-in-command of the fighters Major Emanuel Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who pretty much did nothing other barf out a few words and look stoic with a tobacco pipe.
To be certain, there could have been even more done to explore the lives of these men instead of simply a cool combat flick. Then again, at least it was not near the gagfest love story swallowing up another World War II moment in “Pearl Harbor.”
As something to sit back and munch on a bit of popcorn I’d gladly sit back and pick up again for another viewing. Because of this, it’s appropriate for the whole family and if it gets the kids interested in picking up on learning something mentally useful, it’s all the more a win. Thus my final verdict for “Red Tails” is three and a half out of five maneuvers.
DVD rental courtesy of Family Video of Pauls Valley.