In “I’m So Excited!” the first-class passengers and crew on a bumpy airline flight spend plenty of time knocking back “Valencia cocktails,” a disinhibiting concoction of vodka and mescaline. Pedro Almodóvar’s fizzy farce feels as if it were created under the influence as well. It’s giddy, goofy and outlandish, a sendup of soap opera conventions that ends in literal billows of foam.
It’s also a work of social satire about Spain’s political and financial turmoil. The flight is divided between the slumbering masses in economy class (drugged by the flight attendants) and the A-listers in business class, including a crooked banker, a flamboyant madam for the aristocracy and a boneheaded matinee idol.
A technical failure forces the plane to fly in circles, unable to land. With tongues loosened by impending calamity (and plenty of those Valencia cocktails), the elite confess their indiscretions and try to make peace with those they’ve wronged via the plane’s satellite phone. Belts also loosen, and zippers, and morals, as passengers join the Mile High Club in gymnastic clusters.
Sexual identity is, of course, Almodóvar’s recurring theme, and the springboard for his best jokes. Unbeknownst to his wife, the pilot is having a torrid affair with the chief steward. In a sort of conversational dance of the seven veils, the emphatically straight co-pilot gradually reveals an experimental side. The gossipy madam dishes the kinky proclivities of her upper-class clientele.
The film makes inventive use of Spain’s “ghost airports,” unused bridge-to-nowhere facilities constructed through cronyism among financiers, contractors and government agencies. Its plunging ship of fools is unmistakably a cartoon of Spain’s own economic crash landing.
But there’s no mistaking this screwball romp for a civics lesson. With three campy male flight attendants operating as a Greek chorus (and a Pointer Sisters tribute trio lip-synching the title song in a mid-flight musical interlude), the tone is occasionally melodramatic, but never serious. While it never achieves the sky-high lunacy of Leslie Nielsen in “Airplane!” it’s a diverting trip to nowhere.