Pedro Almodóvar's I'm So Excited!... I'm sorry, I can't even, with that title. Every single Almodóvar film sounds better with its original right name (is not Carne trémula a thousand times sexier-sounding than Live Flesh? Does not Hable con ella flow off the tongue more beautifully than Talk to Her?) but even by those standards, I'm So Excited! is a really shitty title. The original Spanish (Los amantes pasajeros) is an untranslatable pun, so that was always going to be a problem, but surely there was some better solution than to just glom onto the Pointer Sisters interlude in the film's back half and to hell with any connection between the narrative content and the label used to describe the thing. A petty nitpick? Assuredly, but titles are the first thing we learn about movies, and title as dire as I'm So Excited! needs to be taken to task.

Happily, the movie thus described is not nearly as tacky and clichéd as it sounds - or rather, its tackiness and its clichés alike are of a sort that marks it out as a quintessential Almodóvar picture, albeit one without the gravity that sets his most critic-friendly run of pictures apart from the rest of his career. This is, self-consciously (too much so, perhaps), a rejection of artistic respectability and a return to the free-for-all comedies of the director's early career. Which may sound dismissive, except the results are so terrifically entertaining on their own terms that it's awfully hard to feel superior to the film, for even as it is shallow nonsense, it's pointedly shallow nonsense in which the lack of depth in the characters or scenario are there for at least a couple of very specific reasons. One of these is that the film is an exercise in High Camp; and that alone is not significant, for Almodóvar's entire filmography is indebted to camp in some way or another. But I'm So Excited! is more purified than most of the director's work, which tends to also be very melodramatic; the campiness here is foregrounded and everything else is subservient to it. It is thus Almodóvar's gayest film in many years, aesthetically and narratively - it is a film about gayness at a formal level. And this is not done aggressively, the way it would surely have played if were done by any other filmmaker, though it still feels political just because it is so unabashed and forthright.

The other specific reason for the shallowness is to clarify how shallow the characters are, which feeds into how I'm So Excited! works as satire. For satire it absolutely is, though Almodóvar is much too generous a storyteller to bite into the scenario that way that a truly merciless satirist would have done, and it ends up being more satiric conceptually than in the execution. Still, a tale of how the flight attendants on a cross-Atlantic flight drug all of the lower-class passengers to avoid having to deal with them when a potentially deadly problem crops up can hardly help but have harsh overtones, particularly one coming out of the economic hellhole that is the European Union in the 2010s. Anyone looking for a movie that vigorously and savagely dissects the imbalance and abuse between economic classes would end up finding this deeply insubstantial; but anyone coming for lightweight sex jokes and bright poppy colors would be taken aback by just how clever the script actually turns out to be, and it is this later viewership that Almodóvar has plainly tailored his movie to.

There's not that much to talk about, in terms of the story. On a flight bound for Mexico before the plane's landing gear broke, three gay flight attendants - Joserra (Javier Cámara), Fajas (Carlos Arces) and Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo) - try to keep the first class passengers calm as the pilots - Joserra's bisexual lover Álex (Antonio de la Torre) and the insistently straight Benito (Hugo Silva) - fly around in circles, waiting for an airport to permit them to make an emergency landing. The passengers, including pleasant virgin psychic Bruna (Lola Dueñas), bitter dominatrix madam Norma (Cecilia Roth), and fleeing philanderer Ricardo (Guillermo Toledo), are all suffering through their own personal crises during the plane's deadly flight, and they try to use the plane's one phone (broken, so that every conversation is on speaker) to put their affairs in order.

I'm So Excited! furthers the general argument that if we're all fucked, it's best to celebrate and be content in your last moments rather than sit around being joyless, while also conceding that too much laughing in the face of death is part of why so many of us got to be fucked in the first place (the opening scene that sets off the rest of the crisis, with delightful cameos for some Almodóvar regulars, is an explicit counterpoint to the rest of the movie). And to that end, the filmmakers and actors work themselves into a lather creating the most ebullient confection they can, whether because of the R-rated Borscht Belt cant to the humor (it feels, at times, like a compendium of the most obvious but still hilarious blow job jokes), the flights of absurd fancy (the full-length singalong that proves the English title), or the gorgeous sets and costumes designed by Antxón Gómez, and David Delfin and Tatiana Hernández, respectively - as in pretty much all Almodóvar films, the bold primary color palette that dominates the film is as important to defining its mood and energy as any character or performance or moment of writing.

There's a clumsy cutaway to the other side of Ricardo's turn at the phone that ends up inserting something like a short film into the middle of the movie, to absolutely no effect other than to slaughter the momentum; this is the single intensely bad thing I can think up to say about the film. It is great comedy from head to toe: populated by broad, likable, silly characters, filthy about sex in a way that's charming and funny rather than just smutty and kinky, visually alive, and crammed with inventive, playful compositions (one does not leave the film having forgotten that airplanes like like giant erect cocks with wings). Aye, it's unlikely to make anybody's list of the director's all-time greats, but it's still a film that nobody else could have conceivably made, and I am delighted by the fact that he did so.