Judge Bill Gibron now has an achy breaky headache.
On the road of life, it's about the music.
George Barron (Billy Ray Cyrus, Mulholland Dr.) is a successful real estate developer who has hit some troubled times. His employees wish he would butt out and let them do their jobs, but with banks threatening their line of credit and a cranky wife Pamela (Heather Locklear, The Perfect Man) rapidly spending his fortune, he feels the pressure from all sides. Reluctantly, he agrees to attend his 25th high school reunion and there he meets up with old friends Tony (David Zayas, Dexter), Willy (Myk Watford, Trailer Park of Terror), Steve (Eric Allen Kramer, Robin Hood: Men in Tights) and Michael (Robert Gossett, The Closer).
They used to be in a band back in the good old days, and the group still sounds pretty good. Soon George finds himself jamming with his old buddies, an escape from his daily dilemmas that rekindles his romance with music. While his daughter Ellie (Olesya Rulin, High School Musical) and aging mother (Patricia Neal, The Day the Earth Stood Still) support him, Pamela finds the whole thing foolish. Soon, George has to choose between his previous path and a fledgling career as an aging rocker.
So generic it should come in a plain white package with a simple title "MOVIE" and a barcode as cover art, Flying By is probably the result of some high powered Disney/Cyrus contract dispute. In order to keep perky Miss Miley from escaping the House of Mouse and its manipulative, exploitive entertainment tactics, big daddy Billy, owner of an achy breaky heart, probably pitched this veiled vanity project for himself. And without directly involving their commercial legacy, Uncle Walt's underlings made sure the former mullet man was happy. Either that, or the devil is giving discounts on who can become a movie star and who can't (get in line now, cast of Daisy of Love).
If you were shocked by the appearance of the washed-up country playboy pin-up in David Lynch's ode to the horrors of Hollywood, you'll be flabbergasted that Mr. Cyrus was allowed back before the cameras here. He's not bad, he's just inert, about as compelling as watching a group of dead pigeons try to line dance. His George is a good old soul, misunderstood by everyone—his plastic surgery disaster wife, his ditzy if decent daughter, the workers for whom he's made a fortune, the script. All he wants to do is rock out. Apparently, 2009 concert audiences are ready to cheer for 50 year old men with bad goatees, balding heads, and a set-list composed of flaccid frat house classics ("Wild Thing?" Really?)
For her part, the former Ms. Lee-Sambora looks like Hell, the clear victim of one too many trips to Dr. 90210's chop shop. Face pulled taut and lips protruding like a hippo's private parts, she appears in pain, and not just from having to emote alongside Billy Ray. You know when an 83-year-old Tinseltown icon, owner of an Oscar (for Hud) and a few dozen physical limitations can out class you, it's time to latch onto another fading heavy metal musician. Indeed, Patricia Neal is wonderful here, providing the kind of fire and energy the rest of the company lacks. Heck, even tween titan Olesya Rulin is Meryl Streep compared to her parental counterparts. As for the guys who make up the rest of George's emerging erectile dysfunction, they are a collection of clichés housed within the typical mid-life crisis conceits.
Writer/director Jim Amatulli is clearly a student of the rags to riches fame game genre. He pumps in every archetype (the genial group diplomat, the alcoholic "artist" type) and then amplifies the truisms by keeping everything as formulaic as possible. Sure, George faces a few questions along the way: Will his business fail? Will his wife leave? Will he be able to keep from punching drunken fool Willy square in the mouth? (Spoiler Alert, the answers are "No," "Kind Of," and "Absolutely Not!") But Amatulli keeps us hanging over several key plot points. We never find out what happens to the group's liquored up lead guitarist. Locklear gets a "Dear John" speech, and then muffs the conclusion. Even the fate of Encore is left up in the air (yes, that's the band's name. Stop laughing). If this movie is supposed to inspire those buttoned-down types to follow their dreams, the conclusions are fairly vague regarding the achievable levels of future happiness. Indeed, most of Flying By is like the original material produced by George and the guys—wholesome, bland, and barely memorable.
MTI releases this title on a DVD fleshed out with a few bits of added content and some decent tech specs. As for the former, we are treated to two music videos (snore) and a "Film Conversation" interview between director Amatulli and Director of Photography Christopher Chomyn. The Q&A offers some insights, but is a little too self-congratulatory for what we see here. On the sound and picture part of things, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image suffers from some pixelization and grain, but it's not bad. The film has a TV movie look to its compositions and framing, still the transfer is colorful and clean. Sonically, one can choose between the Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1 Surround mixes. Oddly enough, it doesn't really matter. The dialogue is clearly discernible in both and the music doesn't sound any different in either a double or multichannel dynamic. In a final head scratcher, only Spanish subtitles are offered (sorry all you English SDH consumers).
Flying By wants to argue that you're never too old to live out your dreams. All you need is heart, and a whole lot of desire. Oh, and it helps to have a steady income, a group of equally irresponsible adults, and a manager who can make weekend warriors into Whitesnake. It's bad enough the Cyrus family had the whole Hannah Montana phenom to live down. Miley now has enough blackmail fuel against daddy to get whatever she wants.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2009 Bill Gibron; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.