Airplane! (1980)

Director(s): Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Peter Graves, Robert Stack

Do you remember a time when news of a spoof film being released was a wonderful thing? Back in the days when Meet the Spartans and Scary Movie 4 hadn’t completely defecated all over the genre, and you could laugh innocently at what was quality entertainment?

Me neither.

It’s been a hell of a long time since such a film has been released. And while admittedly there is the occasional gem (Black Dynamite from 2009 springs to mind), the spoof film has become a lazy mishmash of poor jokes (both in taste and quality) directed at current celebrities and events. In less than five years time, people are going to be absolutely clueless as to what it is exactly the Scary Movie crowd are poking fun at. But it was not always this way…

The plot:
For Ted Striker, life is pretty tough. He can’t seem to overcome the guilt of potentially causing his wingmens’ deaths while in the Air-Corp. But more importantly, his girlfriend Elaine has just walked out on him. Following her onto the plane where she works as a flight attendant, he commences boring people to the brink of suicide by reminiscing on his life. Meanwhile, a mysterious virus has struck the pilots of the plane and Elaine, under the instruction of Dr. Rumack, is forced to ask Ted to do what he is terrified to do and land the plane…

Despite the supposedly serious nature of the plot, this film does feature jokes about drunken girl scouts brawling in a bar. Unlike modern spoofs, Airplane! doesn’t rely on references to modern celebrities, but instead features good old-fashioned slapstick at it’s finest. Leslie Nielson makes his breakthrough as a deadpan comic actor (after years of playing serious roles in sci-fi films such as Forbidden Planet) and expels one of the most quotable lines in comic history. While he is the shining light of the film, the rest of the cast holds their own as well, managing to keep straight faces while the insanity unfolds around them.

This is entertainment at its purest. As a typical satire of the airplane disaster movie, the plot is kept to a minimal, but this is not a bad thing by any means. What carries the film is the slew of visual gags that are paced perfectly throughout. It’s as if the directors know exactly when the audience is going to stop laughing, so they can hit ’em with another hilarious gag that will have their sides splitting.

Admittedly, some gags may be conceived as too “tame” for modern audiences, but that’s not to say they won’t issue a good giggle at least on every occasion. (For anyone who can maintain a straight face for the entirety of the films’ only song aboard the plane, I will present a shiny new donkey.)

If there is any complaint to be made about the film, it is simply that it is too short. But then again, too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

Awful Rating: 8/10

I am serious…and don’t call me Shirley.” – Dr. Rumack

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • I only saw this film in its entirety about a week before writing this review. Which is odd, because I grew up with these kind of films, watching Blazing Saddles when I was about 4, when most people would be watching Disney. All those millions of references made by TV shows finally make sense. (But that still doesn’t make you funny, Family Guy)
  • I say in its entirety because I saw a bit of it at a friend’s house, but we’d had a little to drink and it was late so I fell asleep. That would have been the end of this story, but I was drawn on a considerable amount that night, and only discovered this when I got home the next day, AFTER getting many a funny look from the taxi driver. My friend, in his infinite wisdom, had written “Call this twat Shirley” on my cheek.
Published in: on August 3, 2011 at 11:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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