Final Approach Release Date: 2005 Genre: Family Director(s): James Becket Writer(s): James Becket (American Heroes: Air Marshal) Starring: Jordan Garrett, Larry Miller, Angela Watson, Eric Roberts, Tim Thomerson, Marc Dacascos Final Approach tells tale of an imaginative ten year old who manages to thwart a hijacking, save their school’s arts program, buddy-up with a dog, […]

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Final Approach
Release Date: 2005
Genre: Family
Director(s): James Becket
Writer(s): James Becket (American Heroes: Air Marshal)
Starring: Jordan Garrett, Larry Miller, Angela Watson, Eric Roberts, Tim Thomerson, Marc Dacascos

Final Approach tells tale of an imaginative ten year old who manages to thwart a hijacking, save their school’s arts program, buddy-up with a dog, beat up Mark Dacascos, dress up in a pilot’s uniform, kiss a girl, stop a kidnapping, start a foodfight, and show up Eric Roberts, and all within the span of a simple flight from Los Angeles to Washington D.C.

Like Panic in the Skies, Final Approach is a Terror on a Plane flick that the whole family can, at least in theory, enjoy. Skies and Approach are two fundamentally different films though. While Skies was nothing more than a rehash of previous movies with curse words and gratuitous violence excised from the script, Final Approach is, from the jerky teacher to the bully who turns good and all the way to the lofty dad hooking up with the hot teacher, a kids movie. But this is still a Terror on a Plane movie, so there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to see it.

In what you can chalk up to the usual logical pratfalls that come with the kidvid genre, ten year old Ricky is both an expert at flying airplanes (thanks to the thousand hours he’s logged on flight simulators) and part of a school music ensemble that are talented enough to be invited to play at the White House. The football coach and extra chaperone for the trip, Coach Davis (Roberts), doesn’t like Ricky’s penchant for daydreaming. He crosses Ricky’s name off the list for the trip, yet Ricky still gets to go because his unemployed father (Miller) pays for an extra ticket so that he can also chaperone the trip. And yeah, the token bully character is also apparently a versed musician, as he’s going on the trip too.

As you can imagine, the first twenty minutes of the movie is so packed full of situations that will make anyone with their brain turned on scratch their heads until they bleed. Once the setting has been switched over to the airport and eventually the airplane, things thankfully start to become a little more sensible.

Prior to getting on the plane Ricky takes notice of Kato (Dacascos), a lone, leather coat-wearing tough guy who is packing heat. His best friend, having been penalized in the past because of Ricky’s over-active mind, doesn’t believe him. That is, until they board the flight and a series of events lead not only to his friend seeing the gun, but also the pilot (Thomerson) getting knocked out. There are plenty of other side distractions, like a kidnapped rich girl, but the whole point to Final Approach is for Ricky to eventually have to fly the plane. That’s exactly what he’s eventually forced to do.

What’s most surprising about Final Approach is the acting talent of Jordan Garrett. Essentially coming across as a young Haley Joel Osmont, Garrett shows himself repeatedly to have an excellent grasp on the mechanics of acting. Garrett doesn’t really share the screen with his costars as much as they share it with him. Literally the entire movie is put on his shoulders. Despite appearing on the cover, Eric Roberts’ ‘Saturday only’ availability due to his “Less Than Perfect” schedule causes his presence to be limited to about five minutes. Despite flying on the plane to D.C. where much of the movie takes place, virtually the only times he’s seen is a brief exchange where he praises Ricky for his heroism. Larry Miller and the music teacher (Watson, who played Karen on “Step by Step”) are also firmly in the background, as is Tim Thomerson, who spends most of the movie on the floor. Only action star Marc Dacascos, whose roles in the Matrix series and Brotherhood of the Wolf have temporarily kept him from fading into Gary Daniels-like obscurity, has a substantial role. And even then, he’s there simply to be embarrassed by the kids before a miles away twist puts him on their side.

Final Approach is silly and contrived, but it’s got one thing going for it; it’s a Terror on a Plane flick. History has shown that I’m sucker for these things, and even though the execution was a bit too out there, Final Approach still partially satisfied my requirements for having a good time with a movie.

And let me add a final note for the fifty-something James Becket, who wrote and directed the movie. Flicking a rubber band against the wrist is a tactic commonly used by suicidal teenagers with a penchant for slicing up their wrists. Having your ten year old lead do just that struck me as a tad bit weird.

DVD: Director/writer James Beckett and Jordan Garrett get together for a commentary track. The commentary track only further showed me that, as long as puberty doesn’t pull a Frankie Muniz on him, Garrett is in line for a healthy career if he so desires one. There’s also an hour long behind the scenes featurette that provides both informative entertainment and “actors are insane” entertainment. Not only does Eric Roberts look bored as hell, but the bit actors also get the chance to give the backstories to their one-dimensional characters. Kristin Herold, who plays one of the flight attendants, comes off as an absolutely insane woman whose biological clock is fervently ticking.
Originally entitled Junior Pilot. The title was likely changed to reflect the marketing approach that shifted focus away from the film’s kidvid nature.

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