Nothing could be a more romantic setting than the United States Air Force, right? Hallmark Movies & Mysteries apparently thought so, as its latest romantic drama, "Come Fly With Me," takes place at Nellis Air Force Base, home of the elite Thunderbirds demonstration team.
The story is pretty simple. Capt. Emma "Blitz" Fitzgerald (Heather Hemmens) gets orders to Nellis to join the team. After moving to Las Vegas, Emma's daughter Lucy befriends a girl named Alice, who is under a doctor's constant care. They soon meet Alice's dad Paul (Niall Matter), a civilian widower (so please don't email me about his beard).
The two have to ground themselves before entering the aircraft hangar, because sparks fly immediately. Spoilers below.
Despite some setbacks and obstacles that had to be overcome, the movie ends with Paul and Emma getting married in an unintentionally "Patton"-themed ceremony. But first, there's a lot of flying; while she may not secretly be European royalty, this is still Hallmark and someone is going to be swept off their feet, dammit.
Getting the Air Force to work with producers on "Come Fly With Me" was, as it turns out, a relatively simple endeavor. The filmmakers got access to the Thunderbirds and Nellis Air Force Base by putting in a request. After looking at the script, the Air Force determined the film was in line with the service's values, like any other script they might consider.
The Department of Defense is only too happy to provide assistance to movie and television productions that it believes will tell the military's story accurately without depicting the services in a negative way. Each branch of service has its own entertainment liaison office that can provide access to bases, ships, aircraft, uniforms, personnel and more.
"The U.S. Air Force is excited to partner with Hallmark Media and Front Street Pictures to bring a story that loosely showcases the pride, precision and professionalism of our nation's elite Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds," said Lt. Col. Darrick Lee, director of the U.S. Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office, in a statement to Variety.
Indeed, there's nothing remotely controversial about the movie, despite the fact that Capt. Fitzgerald would have been the first woman of color to pilot with the Thunderbirds, which surely would have been a much bigger deal. In real life, Capt. Remoshay Nelson joined the Thunderbirds as a public affairs officer in 2020 as the first Black woman assigned to the elite unit.
"Inspiration knows no bounds," Capt. Kaitlin Toner, the unit's current public affairs officer, recently told the Big D and Bubba Show. "Hallmark's mission really is similar to the mission of the Thunderbirds. Hallmark believes if you care enough, you can change the world. Our mission is 'Recruit, Retain, Inspire' and we focus on the inspiration piece."
Watching the movie, it becomes evident the Thunderbirds weren't a necessary component to tell the "Come Fly With Me" story, but hey: Demonstration flying is cool. This might be the first movie with the Thunderbirds we've seen in a while, but it certainly follows in the footsteps of other military-affiliated films designed to appeal to potential future aviators, like "Top Gun: Maverick" and the "Captain Marvel" franchise. Netflix even made its own Hallmark-style Air Force romance with 2020's "Operation Christmas Drop."
"Come Fly With Me" is everything we might expect from a Hallmark movie, just in a military setting. It won't be the last, either. Hallmark says it wants to make more films involving the military.
"It is a long-standing priority for us to create movies set in this world, which resonate strongly with our viewers. We're so proud to partner with the United States Air Force and DoD to bring this special, heartfelt story to life," Elizabeth Yost, senior vice president of development, programming at Hallmark Media, told Variety.
"Come Fly With Me" premiered on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on Sept. 15, 2023.
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