March 31, 2003 12:00 PM

Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo, Christina Applegate, Kelly Preston, Candice Bergen, Mike Myers

If ever there was an in-flight movie—mindless, insubstantial and something you would never bother seeing in a theater—this flimsy romantic comedy about an ambitious flight attendant is it. It’s unlikely, though, that View from the Top will ever unspool midair, because attendants would have just cause to call an immediate sit-down strike over being depicted as such silly bunnies.

In View, plucky Donna (Paltrow) leaves her itsy-bitsy Nevada town to seek travel and adventure working as a waitress in the air. She starts off with an el cheapo carrier (its motto: “Big hair, short skirts and service with a smile”) and then switches to prestigious Royalty Airlines, which has international routes. Along the way she meets nice guy Ted (Ruffalo), a law student, and finds herself conflicted between hearth and Heathrow. “If I really fall in love,” she moans, “I worry I’m going to lose everything I’ve dreamed of.”

Although intended as a modern-day fable, View is embarrassingly behind the times with its either-or scenario. The skies are filled these days with attendants who have spouses and kids back home. Other missteps: depicting flying as still glamorous (anyone who has ever been crammed into an overbooked flight knows that’s wrong) and attendants as all being under 30 rather than old enough, as many are now, to have read 1967’s Coffee, Tea or Me upon first publication.

For Paltrow, this seems like an extended version of her appearances on Saturday Night Live. She plays it broad and has fun, but nothing’s at stake. Applegate and Preston show off big hair and chests and little else. (PG-13)

BOTTOM LINE: Buckle your seat belts, it’s a bumpy flight

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