Just how bad is the movie Red Tails?

Red Tails is a new movie about the Tuskegee airmen that the legendary George Lucas financed himself after years of the movie being rejected for Hollywood financing. It was #2 at the box office this weekend. This second place finish was largely based on black people flocking to the theater – myself included.

Jozen Cummings over at The Root put it best, when he said that Lucas played the race card to get people to the box office,

Media outlets like Entertainment Weekly are already spinning how George Lucas’ $58 million passion project, based on the true story of the African-American World War II fighter pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, did far better than anyone thought it would.

But don’t believe the hype.

The campaign leading up to the release of Red Tails in 2,512 theaters nationwide was primarily the work of Lucas, the film’s executive producer, who was vocal about the risks he took making the film and the challenges he faced, all because the story and its characters were African American. Lucas played the race card — he played it well — but he is also guilty of overplaying the hand with which the race card was dealt.

On The Daily Show, Lucas commented that Hollywood is reluctant to get behind films about black people and with black casts. Of course, this is true, but after seeing the movie I have to wonder if Cummings is right – because I certainly feel played. I raced to go see the film eager to support the cast full of alumni from my favorite television show The Wire (hey, Wallace!) Certainly, the film would be quality given the fact that it was packed with good actors like Cuba Gooding Jr. and Nate Parker right? Wrong.

Without spoiling it at all, the film fell very,very short of my expectations. With all that Lucas was saying about Hollywood racism, I assumed the film was great and that Hollywood was just choosing to ignore it in favor of another story about the white savior like ‘The Help‘ or ‘The Blind Side.’ Poor editing and almost cartoonish racism made the movie laugh-out-loud funny even though it’s a drama, and had many folks leaving the theatre thinking that Lucas just played us for our fourteen bucks (I live in Manhattan).

As someone who complains almost non-stop about how much I hate Tyler Perry movies, I was at least looking forward to a “black” film that wasn’t ahistorical or offensive. With Red Tails, I got low quality and a sub-par story line which fell far short of honoring the incredible story that is the real Tuskegee airmen. Hell, I could just go back and watch the HBO version of the film if I want to be inspired.

That said, just go see ‘Pariah’ instead. That way, you are supporting an important, high quality film with a diverse cast.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted January 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I am always skeptical of Hollywood’s rendering of almost everything. This is not to say that indie cinema or foreign cinema always gets it right, but that the priorities are very different.

    Hollywood films have always been designed to make money. If actors, actresses, screenwriters, and/or directors from international markets make enough of a splash, Hollywood buys them. That’s been true since the early days.

    But that doesn’t mean we ought not to raise our voices.

  2. Posted January 26, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    My friend Aris is in this. He’s an extra that can actually be identified in it. I’m seeing it because he’s a good friend.

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