Picks and Pans Review: Flyboys

updated 10/02/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/02/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

James Franco, Martin Henderson

Their reasons as varied as their backgrounds, a group of young American men journey to France in 1916—before the U.S.'s entry into World War I—to become fighter pilots under French command. Flying in canvas biplanes, these would-be aerial aces engage German foes in fierce dogfights high in the sky, knowing each shoot-out could be their last.

Stop me if you've heard this before. That's the problem with Flyboys, a serviceable action movie that features a sensitive though swaggering hero (Franco), his limpid-eyed French sweetie (Jennifer Decker), whom he meets cute in a brothel (don't worry, she's not working) and a grizzled mentor (Jean Reno). From the first scenes, you can accurately predict who will live and who will die, and pretty much in what order.

That said, if I were 13 or even 22, I'd find the movie both stirring and moving. And I'd be right. It is all that, just in ways that echo too many movies I've seen before. What Flyboys does have going for it are vivid aerial battle scenes and a confident, endearing performance by Franco, who proves up to carrying the movie on his wide, leather-jacketed shoulders. (PG-13)

bgwhite bgwhite   

From Our Partners