The Score: "Red Tails": "Boondocks Creator Aaron McGruder Helped Pen The Script"

Friday, Jan 20, 2012 2:00PM

Written by J. Bachelor

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  • Red Tails
  • Cuba Gooding Jr, Terrance Howard
  • January 20, 2012
Detroit News 7/10
Washington Post 1.5/4
New York Post 3/4
E!Online 8/10
The Movie Report 3/4

Star Wars creator George Lucas finally gets to see his labor of love soar, as the high flying film Red Tails arrives in theaters today.

A project several decades in the making, Lucas has been vocal about the struggles he had making this film.

A passion project for producer George Lucas, who began development on the film over 20 years ago, "Red Tails" dramatizes the heroic efforts of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all African American aerial unit in the United States armed forces. As World War II rages overseas, the Pentagon calls upon the aviators of its experimental Tuskegee training program, led by Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) and Major Emanuelle Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr.) , to help turn the tide. Having spent most of the war on the ground and fighting segregation, the young airmen are finally given the opportunity to defend their honor in battle.(Speakeasy)

Aside from its producer, Red Tails features an impressive list of names behind the scenes; the film's director is Anthony Hemingway (HBO's "The Wire") and Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder helped pen the script.

Producer Lucas, director Hemingway and his writers, John Ridley and "Boondocks" creator Aaron McGruder, aren't going for serious business here. As McGruder said in the film's promotional materials, "Red Tails" offers "a comic-book feel that only George Lucas could bring to a film." He added: "Before this, we didn't have our John Wayne, but we now have that kind of larger-than-life treatment, and the Tuskegee Airmen deserve it."(L.A. Times)

In front of the camera, Hollywood vets Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard are joined by several well-known music talents such as singer Ne-Yo and rapper Method Man.

None of characters here are based on any specific real-life figures, and as such they fall for the most part into conventional character types; that said, they are all lent human dimension by the actors. Given the size of the cast (Tristan Wilds, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo, Michael B. Jordan, Method Man, Andre Royo, Marcus T. Paulk, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Terrence Howard are among the recognizable faces here), some of men in the unit inevitably get more screen attention than others, but serving as an equalizing force is the unforced and genuine camaraderie between the guys, helped by some amusing banter from Ridley and McGruder's pen.(The Movie Report)

Critics cite the special effects as one of the film's strongpoints.

Even the sound of the planes whizzing by recalls the Phantom Menace's pod race. Say what you will about Lucas' tin ear, when the bearded one makes it visceral he's hard to top. Flying high above Europe, swooping and darting with an endless array of planes, the cutting style delivers a terrific sense of urgency. Better still, we're right alongside the pilots in the cockpit. As hectic as things get, we're never lost. This is how action should be done. A battle against the German's superior jet squad is the film's highlight.(E! Online)

While many reviewers say the film is a letdown because it is more of an action flick as opposed to a historical piece, others say its a thrilling ride that gives a different spin on a group of America's unsung heroes.

"Red Tails" is a major disappointment--a film that takes a subject that screams out for a full-scale dramatization and a budget that most filmmakers would kill for and comes up with absolutely nothing to show for it that one couldn't find on even the shabbiest bit of recycled programming on the Military Channel. Not only that, it pretty much puts the final nail in the coffin for anyone who still has the misguided belief that George Lucas is a talented and visionary storyteller. This may have been true a long time ago in a cinematic world far, far away but whatever gifts he may have once possessed have long since slipped away in his desire to build a cinematic empire that now seems only interested in rehashing his previous triumphs for as long as he can still convince people to buy into them.(E Film Critic)
The battle scenes soar, thanks to top-notch and thrilling special effects. Quieter scenes give characters added dimension, such as those that address one officer's drinking problem. Other scenes, however, beg for the next action showpiece. A romance between Lightning (a best-of-show Oyelowo) and a young Italian lass is sweet in how they don't need language to communicate. But their story line ends as only it could. Overreaching fits of melodrama, occasionally stilted dialogue, and performances by Gooding Jr. and Howard that are mostly a series of serious faces can't keep the shiny "Red Tails" from taking flight.(STL Today)

Check out a trailer for Red Tails below:

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