There are plenty of nifty aerial fight scenes in “Flyboys,” but it all seems strangely perfunctory. The film simply isn’t interested in the Big Picture – what caused WWI or how the war ended. The film’s climax is also its conclusion; there is no denouement.

Although the film is not grievously offensive, it is never more than merely serviceable storytelling. The Lafayette Escadrille is a great war-time story, and it deserves a great film. However, “Flyboys” is not that film. In its desire to reach a broad audience, it intersperses action with romance, settling for clichés in both instances. The bland performances from a mostly undistinguished cast don’t help matters.

Franco has had a terrible year, on the basis of his performance here and in “Annapolis,” as well as a cameo in the doomed, derided remake of the “The Wicker Man.” His square-jawed glower  and James Dean looks can’t disguise a deficit of charisma that leaves “Flyboys” grounded – and which should send his future leading-man prospects into a tailspin.

AUDIENCE: Teens and up

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  A few profanities.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Drinking, including some reluctant imbibing by a teetotaler.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Prostitutes care for two wounded pilots.
  • Violence:  Fights in the air; a pilot uses a revolver to commit suicide before his plane is engulfed in flames; destruction of several airplanes and a blimp; a shocked pilot is slapped across the face; a recruit confesses to a past crime; a pilot’s pinned hand is hacked off with a shovel; a man falls off his horse.