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Movie Review

Almodóvar takes madcap farce to new heights

From left: Carlos Areces, Raúl Arévalo, and Javier Cámara play flight stewards.

Photos by Paola Ardizzoni & Emilio Pereda/Sony Pictures Classics

From left: Carlos Areces, Raúl Arévalo, and Javier Cámara play flight stewards.

Cecilia Roth is a dominatrix on board.

Paola Ardizzoni & Emilio Pereda/Sony Pictures Classics

Cecilia Roth is a dominatrix on board.

I guess the best way to describe Pedro Almodóvar’s latest, “I’m So Excited!,” is to think of it as “Airplane!” repurposed into a Spanish telenovela and staged by a maniacal gay cabaret troupe. So, no, it’s not one of the master’s more enduring works, and, yes, it has the bad luck to open in the Boston area less than a week after a plane crashed in San Francisco. If you can get over that and are in the mood for a giddy trifle, this may be your bag of slightly stale peanuts.

Almodóvar has lately been indulging his love of genre — the plastic-surgery horror romance of “The Skin I Live In” (2011), the Pirandellian melodramatics of “Broken Embraces” (2009) — and here he seems roused by the challenge of staging a madcap farce in the cramped confines of an airplane. Or maybe he’s roused, period: “I’m So Excited!” might be the horniest movie ever made by a major filmmaker.

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All the characters seem ready to go into full rut at any moment, from the swishy trio of stewards headed by the nominal hero, Joserra (Javier Cámara), to his closeted pilot lover (Antonio de la Torre) to the movie star (Guillermo Toledo) to the psychic (Lola Dueñas) to the superstar dominatrix (Cecilia Roth). All it takes is some Pointer Sisters karaoke and a serving of mescaline cocktails, and we’re off to the races.

To cut down on the number of characters, Almodóvar has the plebs in economy drugged by the crew — that’s one way to survive the ordeal — while the oversize egos in business class cope with the news that the plane’s landing gear is broken. (In a playful entr’acte graced by a few famous Friends of Pedro, we see the cause of the malfunction.) The pilots circle the country looking for a runway while the passengers examine their shriveled consciences and call their loved ones back home.

Is this a metaphor for modern Spain, or maybe the plight of the euro? Nahh. It’s about the eternal silliness of the human animal. The film envisions a half-dozen little soap operas, all of them perfectly ridiculous, and ultimately ties them up (and down) in kinky knots. If there’s anything serious to be mined from “I’m So Excited!” — which is doubtful — it’s the hypocrisy of a society where everyone fills their expected roles while yearning for carnal anarchy. Ever generous, Almodóvar is happy to give his characters what they want, even if he risks tipping his movie into a tired ’80s sex farce.

The end results are broad, occasionally uproarious, a little wheezy, and every so often inspired — a subplot involving the movie star’s suicidal girlfriend (Paz Vega) and the luminous girlfriend before that (Blanca Suárez) is a giddy miracle of coincidence and absurdity. Paced at a gallop and filmed (by Jose Luis Alcaine) in deceptively subdued colors, “I’m So Excited!” is probably its director’s most forgettable work. But it has its trashy pleasures, and it beats an in-flight movie — the one place you can bet it will never be seen.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. Follow him
on Twitter @tyburr.
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