Iron Eagle (1986) — The Air Force is totally cool with teens flying their jets

“If you don’t shut it down, I’ll screw up somethin’ else!”

Justin’s rating: Fly into… the Gossett Jr. zone!

Justin’s review: When I start to do a mental tally of movies that fit into a genre I succinctly title “Movies Where Those Darn Kids Are So Awesome And Show Those Stupid Adults That They Can Do Everything Better, Including Extreme Slide Rule* Competitions”, I quickly run out of fingers and toes, and have to move on to my chest hairs for numbering assistance. I got up to the large swath of manly gorilla fur before my wife came home and had many, many questions to ask of my mental stability.

Okay, so there are a lot (of movies, not stability). Obviously, there’s not a great demand among grown-ups to watch movies where prepubescent twerps, their voices cracking, topple Congress and institute “Radical Law”. But when you market them toward the oppressed minority group known as “kids,” their revolutionary hearts are warmed by the bold message and they turn out in droves to see sincere silliness.

Iron Eagle is, we must report, sincere silliness. However, it’s the best kind of sincere silliness out there — a story that is so boldly anti-logical that you have no alternative but to sit up sharply and respect its embrace of chaos. The ’80s was notorious for movies like this, because they simply didn’t care about internet critics and their propensity for nitpicking the finer points of imaginary worlds. They just went, “Huh, wouldn’t it be cool if, like, a teenager could fly and fight in an F-16? Pew pew!” Nods all around in the movie studio meeting room, followed by a visual frenzy of activity as they had to reverse engineer a movie from this wacky premise.

Doug (Jason Gedrick) is the son of an Air Force pilot who’s shot down over an unnamed Middle Eastern country Doug is not happy, so Doug decides to enlist the help of semi-retired colonel “Chappy” (Louis Gossett Jr.) to help him be, like, a teenager who could fly and fight in an F-16. Then they go flying over to Generic Middle Eastern Country That Probably Ends In ‘Stan,’ blow some runways and planes up, and blast the natives with American music. BORN TO BE WILD, baby!

I could have been a lot more detailed in that plot summary, except I don’t like you. Er, I mean, I don’t like the story enough to care. It’s tremendously willy-nilly in its details — to make this plan happen, a group of Doug’s kiddie friends have to implement a complex plan to prep and steal two fighter jets, map out a military incursion, and do it without the Air Force minding so much. This involves a laundry list of goofy scenes, such as girls spilling soda on a dad’s lap and kids in military gear lighting firecrackers in a hanger, to achieve dubious results that are never quite explained. You just sort of take it all on faith that this movie isn’t a practical joke aimed at you personally.

Above the nonsensical Iron Eagle hubbub rises Louis Gossett Jr. himself, the only true acting force in the movie. By which I mean “by default.” Gossett obviously has fun trying to be a tough-as-nails fighter pilot, but his tendency to talk way too much, dance like a little schoolgirl, and go from happy to angry every few seconds makes it impossible to take him seriously. That’s okay, Mr. Jr! We at Mutant Reviewers are rarely taken seriously ourselves.

When all is said and done, here thar be a Top Gun meets The Goonies effort that was just lackluster enough to warrant a measly three sequels. Three! That’s barely enough paycheck for Louis Gossett Jr.’s yearly supply of head wax! Bah.

*A slide rule was a manual “computer” that looked like a fancy ruler. It was used to do advanced calculation, like trigonometry, before electronic calculators came along. In the late ’80s, Microsoft even developed a slide rule that had a primitive version of Minesweeper loaded on it.

Didja notice?

  • Fighter pilots receive 95% of their information from a scrolling LED screen that knows EVERYTHING
  • Fighter pilots also love talking to themselves
  • Little kids can easily pose as high school juniors
  • Military bases don’t mind reckless driving too much
  • $1.36 for gas… those were the days
  • Don’t forget Jimmy Branson! Never! Who was Jimmy Branson?
  • Dirt bike vs. airplane… oookay
  • That’s the most country colonel I’ve ever seen. Nice poker metaphor, man.
  • Dad shot down in combat and held for trial in a hostile country? That’s never a reason to skip your prom!
  • The coolest clubhouse ever!
  • Chappy likes to order young men to talk to him while he’s taking a shower, and to sleep in his bed. Whaaa?
  • The enemy country? Generic “Middle Eastern Bloc”
  • I could’ve done without Lou Gosset Jr. wiggling his tush
  • He needs his tunes to fly, man!
  • A pep talk via tape!
  • Really horrible special effects

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