Pedals to the metal: Jesse James and Reiley McClendon
in an action sequence from The Flyboys, part of the festival’s Friday
opening ceremonies at the Palace.
Much-relocated junior-high student Kyle (Reiley McClendon) attempts to establish permanent roots with his waitress-mom (Jennifer Slimko) at a burg in the American Southwest. Kyle forges a fast friendship with classmate Jason (Jesse James), who’s been shoved around by neighborhood toughs, and Jason introduces him to the world of flying, courtesy of Jason’s pilot-uncle Ed (Dallen Gettling). Trouble looms when the boys inadvertently become stowaways on a plane bound for Vegas, with the return flight getting more interesting when a bomb is placed on board. But that’s only part of this eventful story, as co-writer/director/editor Rocco DeVilliers drops a 15-minute flashback at the midway point to explore the fraternal relationship of two mobsters, made man Angelo (Saving Private Ryan’s Tom Sizemore) and his screw-up kid brother Silvio (Stephen Baldwin), the latter holding a sizable gambling debt. The Flyboys has boasted more different names than the much-married Liz Taylor (previous working titles have included Airspeed and Sky Kids), yet by any moniker it’s an impressive action-adventure geared for the family trade. As an independent feature, it can bypass the dumbed-down, focus-grouped formulaic oatmeal churned out by Hollywood studios. Sky Kids might feel a tad testosterone-heavy, especially with sleazy villains like the silencer-toting loser Lenny (J. Todd Adams, rechanneling David Arquette’s shtick as an unpredictable badass) and pierced motorhead Jack (David Stevens). Yet DeVilliers excels at choreographing stunt-heavy action sequences that range from car chases to high-flying mayhem, while grounding his film with natural performances from his young leads. But wait, there’s more: Sizemore captures an unexpected tenderness as this movie’s kind-of-good goodfella, Baldwin’s conflicted turn helps to atone for his sins on Celebrity Mole and DeVilliers manages to tie up a surprising number of plot threads while hitting all the right emotional notes along the way and even providing some comic relief (best bit: two hulking mafiosos pass themselves off as “FBI special agents Clinton and Bush”). Screw Alvin and the Chipmunks; now this is a kid’s movie that should become the festival’s most satisfying crowd-pleaser. Palace, Friday, April 25, 7 p.m.; Saturday, May 3, 11:30 a.m.