I promised a review of the George Lucas film directed by Anthony Hemingway with screenplay by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder. Here it is:

As with other areas of American culture, so much hope rides on a big-budget mainstream action movie with a black theme—certainly not something we’ve EVER seen before, sadly. As a result, we still look to such endeavors to do exactly what the Tuskegee Airmen and other “first” blacks have to do to succeed ~ be exceptionally better than best. With so many pinning so much on this film, it’s bound to disappoint.

Let’s go first to what worked ~ it did my heart good to see a bevy of young, black male actors on the screen in a story that not only ripped apart the usual stereotypes, but focused on a crucial untold part of American history. As one would expect from the king of intergalactic warfare, Lucas’ combat dogfight scenes in Red Tails are top-notch, even for someone like me who is not  a fan of war movies, and I did hear from a young, black male friend who is studying to be a pilot (the pilot son from earlier comment!) that he liked the movie and dogfight scenes, in a classic sense.

In the end I wanted more grit, more insight into the emotions of the Tuskegee Airmen going into battle bearing the weight of racial crusades back home. I wanted fewer stilted, rapid-fire one-liners overall, and especially from the cock pits. I wanted the blood to be less fake. And if not a flashback showing one of the men at home with his wife or girlfriend (ie, a black actress) then give me her photo in the cockpit at least (we got the Italian love interest and even black Jesus for goodness sake).

For all the ways that Red Tails let me down artistically, it more than made up for by taking the risk, by saying yes to the story and getting it out there. And I thank George Lucas and his team for that.

I also thank my good friend Doc Hughes for sending me the video below this morning: Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee beautifully expresses everything else I want to say. We’re all eager to hear what you have to say so keep the comments coming…and scroll down for the Skinny…

THE SKINNY ~ This 1995 PBS film is in my queue