In Adam Starks’ Low Flyers, Ted (Starks), Harry (Joshua Copeland), Rory (Alexander Tannahill), and Tom (Kieran Donnelly) are four English students and textbook illustrations of what it means to be a “bum.” Aside from being virtually penniless, the four of them are unabashedly lazy. When we first meet them, one of them brags about getting D’s because “I don’t even try, yet I still manage to pass.” Moreover, the four of them are also somewhat dim, the kind of people who can be tricked into believing that there’s such a thing as “Welsh dollars.”
At the film’s start, these four friends decide to take a road trip through Great Britain, ostensibly out of a desire to go camping and visit historical sites. To nobody’s surprise but their own, however, this trip quickly goes awry. Despite their stated desire to go camping, the only tent the four guys pack is a tiny one made for six-year-olds. Their attempts to flirt with girls invariably prove unsuccessful. And as you might expect, these guys’ slow-wittedness gets them into a fair amount of trouble: at one point, for instance, they get locked inside a freezing-cold gymnasium that has no heating.
“…four friends decide to take a road trip through Great Britain, ostensibly out of a desire to go camping…”
As you ought to have figured out by now, Low Flyers is meant to be a road trip comedy. What prevents it from being effective, however, is the pettiness and mean-spiritedness of its humor. A fair number of jokes are the kind of toilet humor you see in kids’ films. And those that aren’t are often made at the expense of at least one of the characters, focusing on how stupid or incurably foolish said character (or characters) is. All of this not only makes the film’s humor rather lame, but it also makes the overall film feel rather condescending.
What’s especially egregious about Low Flyers, moreover, is the way in which it portrays its female characters. Invariably caricatures, the girls that Ted, Harry, Rory, and Tom meet on the trip have no agency whatsoever. In other words, it often feels like the girls’ only purpose in the film is to give the four guys something to fight over or make jokes about. Because of this, Low Flyers at some points comes close to feeling like a “boys will be boys” film, one that excuses boorishness and objectification for the purposes of entertainment.
“…I did get something out of the film’s depiction of…England, Wales, and Scotland.”
On the whole, I wouldn’t say that Low Flyers is completely lacking as a film. This will probably be familiar to UK viewers, but as an American, I did get something out of the film’s depiction of the cultural and historical differences between England, Wales, and Scotland. In a way, Ted, Harry, Rory, and Tom exhibit what you could call “English privilege,” a sense of superiority that allows them to run roughshod over the unique culture and identity of Great Britain’s non-English regions.
That said, however, I really can’t think of anything else that’s worth appreciating in Low Flyers. In its primary objective – namely, being funny – the film largely fails, using a brand of humor that’s both crass and demeaning. And when you consider that Starks doesn’t really develop any of the characters – even the four protagonists lack depth, to say nothing of the female characters – this is also a film in which you barely feel any form of emotional investment. Starks is apparently planning to make a sequel to this film, but unless he does a complete 180, it’s hard to see how a second installment would be any better than the mess he’s given us here.
"…textbook illustrations of what it means to be a 'bum.'"