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REAL FLIERS DON'T NEED KISSES : Too Much Mush Can Ground Even the Best Film Flyboy

July 06, 1986|JAY SHARBUTT

There's been a lot of talk lately about why current movies have so little sex. A recent Calendar article, examining macho movies, posed the proposition, "Real Men Don't Need Kisses." "CBS Morning News," apparently worrying about it, asked a bunch of film critics to explain why movies are so chaste. "Top Gun," a hit, was cited as a movie that has only a little sex.

Now I am no movie critic, except when the movie is bad. But I think the answer to this where's-the-sex question is that the Hollywood film industry is finally starting to wise up--at least when it comes to films about war and flying.

It is starting to realize that in these movies, shooting and flying are the important things, not hugging and kissing and perhaps going all the way.

I came to this conclusion one fine day after someone told me "Top Gun" had bad disco music but nifty flying scenes. As I am a sucker for nifty flying scenes, even with bad disco music, I decided to go see this movie.

I asked a pal, Long Tall Sally, if she would like to join me. I told her the film is about Navy fighter pilots, F-14 jets, and the Top Gun school that hot Navy aviators attend after they graduate from "An Officer and a Gentleman" and get carrier-qualified.

Long Tall Sally had her doubts about going. But she said OK. I have to give her credit for this. Most women don't like movies about war and flying. They think such films have too much action and too little mush.

Guys have a different complaint. It is that almost all war and flying movies feel the need to put in a "love interest," i.e., a dame, which is French for woman. The love interest always causes a cliche, which is French for deja vu.

Every time the love interest checks in, all the action stops so she and the hero can have a frank and cordial exchange of views. The important action resumes now and then, but mush is the main event.

In traditional movies about flying, it works this way: The hotshot pilot gets big eyes for a lady he meets. But she does not give him a tumble at first. Then his best friend gets killed in a flying accident. This makes the hero feel guilty.

This makes the lady realize that he actually is vulnerable, despite his swagger. Then she gives him a tumble. She also makes him realize there is is more to life than aileron rolls.

At this point, the movie slows to a crawl, even though a fighter squadron eventually roars overhead in what is called the "missing man" formation.

Despite some fine flying scenes early on in "Top Gun," all the cliches seem imminent when Kelly McGillis, who is quite a looker, checks in as a theoretical expert in aerial combat. Tom Cruise, the swaggering hero, promptly gets quite hot for her.

They often meet, causing him to imitate Paul Newman grinning. Strange thing, though. There is no necking for a while. But then comes a flying accident and his revelation that he is vulnerable, despite his swagger. He and she draw close to each other.

At this point, I sigh and adjourn to the lobby to buy popcorn. Experience has taught me that I am in for a long stretch of woo and all the fun is over.

Alas, there is no line at the popcorn stand. It takes less than four minutes for me to transact my business. I sigh again and return to the ordeal of the big love scene. But there is no big love scene, only F-14s rolling around.

"Where is the mush?" I ask Long Tall Sally.

"You missed it," she says.

"Did they make love?"

"And rather quickly," she says.

This may say something about Navy F-14 pilots. But I really think it portends a new era dawning in films about flying. Some day, there may be an aviation movie with no love interest at all for the hero--except his airplane.

There will be lamentations that Hollywood is regressing to the days of the Westerns when the hero's only love interest was his horse. Critics will say this is a terrible trend. I would agree, except for one thing.

Horses can't do aileron rolls.

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