Have you been missing the delightfully cheesy disaster films of yore? I know I have. The preposterous "Turbulent Skies" is a kissing cousin to the camp classic "Airport 1975" without the star wattage, overwrought performances, or manic intensity. Combining the estimable talents of Casper van Dien, Nicole Eggert, and Patrick Muldoon--it's not like I expected this film to compete for Oscars. I'd just hoped for a bit more fun. Everyone plays it far too straight (where's a cross-eyed Karen Black when you need her?) and the resultant film is patently dull as opposed to genuine B-movie magic. The screenplay is riddled with holes and lapses of logic, the film just needed to embrace its inherent silliness and go with it. But by asking us to take it seriously and to care, the director has missed his chance to elevate this to campy greatness. As is, only the most stalwart fans of one of the leads might be interested in this rather tedious exercise. There are plenty of more effective low budget adventures in the DVD marketplace--try to catch this on cable sometime before plopping down hard earned dollars to own it!
The film centers around a new piece of technology that will revolutionize air travel. An auto-pilot device that will make humans obsolete has been developed by Eggert and team. On the test voyage, corporate greed takes over and Muldoon (the requisite bad guy) outfits a commercial airline with the device and invites investors to fly with the untested (and tampered with) unit controlling the plane. I loved how all this happened rather spontaneously--as if there wouldn't be a billion federal regulations to navigate. Soon a 747 is loaded with potential victims (By loaded, I mean 12 people. Seriously--3 corporate representatives, 4 crew members, 2 reporters, and 3 investors). All this is for THREE investors--even though no one seems to know how many people to expect. Muldoon has prepared extravagant gift bags, there are trays of champagne, and the flight attendant even attempts to shut the door before the reporters get on. No flight manifest? Can't count to twelve?
Of course, the unit malfunctions and takes the plane off course. Even though there are no signs of the plane actually crashing, the military decide to shoot it down before it gets to a city. Preventive medicine, I suppose. Van Dien plays Eggert's estranged husband who might be able to save the day (and their marriage) if only he can get onto the flight. Well, he does--just in time to clip some wires. Thank goodness he was there. Eggert still has to single handedly save the day (good thing she had that rescue training on Baywatch). Again, it's all just silly--had it aspired to dumb fun, it might have worked. But I really think they wanted you to care about the thinly drawn characters and personal drama and touching moments of heroism. A low budget thriller, in which the low budget really shows and the thrills are limited, "Turbulent Skies" is instantly forgettable--assuming you make it to the end. Now, I really am going to re-watch "Airport 1975" in all its campy glory! KGHarris, 6/11.