"Red Tails" Review: Pilots Who Fought to Soar Above Racism

“Patriotic,” “jingoistic,” “old-fashioned,” “corny” and “inspirational for teenage boys.” Those are the words of George Lucas, the executive producer of “Red Tails,” describing his whiz-bang action film about African-American fighter pilots in World War II on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”

Mr. Lucas financed the $58 million movie, which the major studios didn’t want to touch because of the box office limitations of its mostly African-American cast. “It is exactly like ‘Flying Leathernecks,’ only this one was held up for release since 1942, when it was shot,” Mr. Lucas said. In structure and tone, “Red Tails” proudly harks back to the 1940s and ’50s, when good guys were good, and bad guys bad.

To say that this live-action comic book lives up to Mr. Lucas’s description is not a wholehearted endorsement. Are teenage boys as naïve today as they were 60 or more years ago? And much of the dialogue is groaningly clunky. But so it was back then.

At least “Red Tails,” the first feature film directed by Anthony Hemingway (“Treme,” “The Wire”) from a screenplay by John Ridley (“U-Turn,” “Three Kings,” “Undercover Brother”) and Aaron McGruder (“Boondocks”), is a mildly entertaining classroom instructional about the Tuskegee Airmen....

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