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"VIEW FROM THE TOP"
(2003) (Gwyneth Paltrow, Mike Myers) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama/Comedy: A young woman tries to live out her dream of becoming an international flight attendant.
PLOT:
Donna Jensen (GWYNETH PALTROW) has always desired to get out of her little town of Silver Springs, NV and is inspired by former flight attendant turned famous motivational speaker Sally Weston (CANDICE BERGEN) to follow one's dreams.

Donna gets the chance when she joins Sierra Airlines, a small commuter operation, and is taught how to be a flight attendant by seasoned veteran Sherry (KELLY PRESTON). They're soon joined by Christine (CHRISTINA APPLEGATE) and the three become fast friends. Yet, Donna aspires to move on to a bigger airline and gets Christine and Sherry to join her in applying for jobs with Royalty Airlines.

She and Christine are accepted, and begin studying under the direction of John Whitney (MIKE MYERS), the airline's director of flight attendants. Despite Donna being the better student, Christine gets the better assignment, while Donna gets the Cleveland commuter route with gay attendant Randy (JOSHUA MALINA). Once there, however, she runs into a former acquaintance and law school dropout, Ted (MARK RUFFALO), who's now going back to school.

They quickly become lovers, but Donna still wonders why she didn't get a better assignment. As she seeks out the help of Sally who's now her mentor, Donna must decide between love and furthering her career.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Once upon a time, air travel was an upscale event. That's because it was still relatively novel years ago and thus a special occasion. It was also an expensive endeavor that was dominated by business travelers. All of which would explain why passengers dressed up, service was more personal than today, and people thought of pilots and even stewardesses as cool.

Nowadays, and notwithstanding first class service or flying on the Concord, air travel is more akin to bus service and the renamed flight attendants little more than waiters or waitresses. Accordingly, the idolized notion of working for airlines has been greatly diminished. Thus, aside from the metaphor of taking flight in one's life, a story focusing on a young woman's goal to be a flight attendant seems a bit of an odd choice for a movie.

Then again, director Bruno Barreto latest effort, "View From the Top," is an odd little film that can't decide what it is or wants to be. At times, it feels a bit like satire, what with the goofy look at flight attendant training, retro clothing, hairstyle and overall look, as well as various cameos from the likes of Rob Lowe, George Kennedy and Chad Everett. Yet, it comes nowhere close to matching what the "Airplane" movies did with spoofing related disaster films. At other times, it's a love story and then an uplifting and motivational follow-your-dreams sort of tale.

Reports are that the film was shelved following the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, but that seems like a cop-out on the part of the releasing studio. It's more likely that they were confused about what to do with it and whether to market it as a comedy, drama or both. If it hadn't been for its name-list cast, I imagine it probably would have ultimately gone straight to video. That's not to say that it's awful. Instead, it's just that it's flat across the board from most any considered aspect.

As written by Eric Wald (making his debut), the plot offers few surprises, just about as many laughs, and isn't as touching or inspirational as it wants to be and/or thinks it is. It's the equivalent of a boring meal. While all sorts of potentially tasty and appetizing ingredients have been thrown into the mix, the yield is bland and instantly forgettable. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why that is, expect to say that Barreto ("Bossa Nova," "One Tough Cop") and company's execution is off.

It doesn't help that everything is predictable from start to finish. The film offers few, if any, surprises (including the singing along with the song on the soundtrack bit), but does contain various moments that don't make sense. From a comedy standpoint, that's not always a bad thing if the resultant material is funny. The problem here is that it really isn't and there's far more of a "dramatic" rather than comedic feel to the offerings.

The majority of the latter falls on the shoulders of Mike Myers ("Shrek," the "Austin Powers" movies), and the commercials make it seem like he's a major character. In fact, he's just a supporting one and his signature lazy eye material is only briefly funny before it's run into the ground. The rest of his performance is rather mediocre and his various comedy attempts unfortunately feel like a warmed over retreading of his usual faux exaggerated schtick that we've seen many times before.

As the dreamy protagonist, Gwyneth Paltrow ("Possession," "The Royal Tenenbaums") is okay but hemmed in by bland writing and character development. Christina Applegate ("The Sweetest Thing," "Just Visiting") and Kelly Preston ("What a Girl Wants," "For Love of the Game") can't do much with their unrealistic characters either. Meanwhile, Mark Ruffalo ("Windtalkers," "You Can Count on Me") is trapped in a clichéd and boring romantic subplot and Candice Bergen ("Sweet Home Alabama," "Miss Congeniality") plays a mentor of sorts in some material that just doesn't work.

Unsure of what it wants to be, the film ends up being nothing remarkable, memorable or noteworthy. Certain to pass from viewers' minds just as fast as a jet crossing over one's head in the sky, this "View From the Top" isn't worth seeing. It rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed March 17, 2003 / Posted March 21, 2003


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