Film: Airplane!

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Film:

Airplane!

Director: Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, David Zucker
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Paramount

The quintessential movie spoof that spawned an entire genre of parody films, the original Airplane! still holds up as one of the brightest comedic gems of the ‘80s, not to mention of cinema itself (it ranked in the top 5 of Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 100 funniest movies ever made). The humor may be low and obvious at times, but the jokes keep coming at a rapid-fire clip and its targets—primarily the lesser lights of ‘70s cinema, from disco films to star-studded disaster epics—are more than worthy for send-up. If you’ve seen even one of the…

Reviews

Amazon.com

The quintessential movie spoof that spawned an entire genre of parody films, the original Airplane! still holds up as one of the brightest comedic gems of the ‘80s, not to mention of cinema itself (it ranked in the top 5 of Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 100 funniest movies ever made). The humor may be low and obvious at times, but the jokes keep coming at a rapid-fire clip and its targets—primarily the lesser lights of ‘70s cinema, from disco films to star-studded disaster epics—are more than worthy for send-up. If you’ve seen even one of the overblown Airport movies then you know the plot: the crew of a filled-to-capacity jetliner is wiped out and it’s up to a plucky stewardess and a shell-shocked fighter pilot to land the plane. Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty are the heroes who have a history that includes a meet-cute à la Saturday Night Fever, a surf scene right out of From Here to Eternity, a Peace Corps trip to Africa to teach the natives the benefits of Tupperware and basketball, a war-ravaged recovery room with a G.I. who thinks he’s Ethel Merman (a hilarious cameo)—and those are just the flashbacks! The jokes gleefully skirt the boundaries of bad taste (pilot Peter Graves to a juvenile cockpit visitor: “Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?”), with the high (low?) point being Hagerty’s intimate involvement with the blow-up automatic pilot doll, but they’ll have you rolling on the floor. The film launched the careers of collaborators Jim Abrahams (Big Business), David Zucker (Ruthless People), and Jerry Zucker (Ghost), as well as revitalized such B-movie actors as Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Robert Stack, and Leslie Nielsen, who built a second career on films like this. A vital part of any video collection. —Mark Englehart

Barnes and Noble

Three years after their initial blip on the cultural radar as co-writers of The Kentucky Fried Movie, boyhood friends Jim Abrahams and Jerry and David Zucker landed with a riotous bang—writing, producing, and directing the zaniest comedy of the ‘70s, Airplane! Mixing absurd sketch-comedy, puns, wordplays, and cartoonish slapstick with relentless glee, the trio lampooned Hollywood’s penchant for formulaic schlock, using the airline-disaster movie as their framework. The story here is of a burned-out fighter pilot (Robert Hayes) who boards an airplane in hopes of reconciling with his lost love (Julie Haggerty), a flight attendant, and winds up having to overcome his anxiety and crash-land the suddenly stricken jet. The story, though, is secondary to the whirligig of goofball characters on the plane and on the ground. The unending barrage of quips, sight gags, and one-liners transcends the often self-aware dopiness of the humor, making Airplane! as much a brilliant exercise in post-structuralism as it is a gut-buster. Employing seasoned TV straight men such as Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, and Robert Stack to brilliant, self-parodying effect, the movie served up a buffet of deadpan catchphrases. When Hayes says to Nielsen, who portrays a doctor who happens to be aboard, “Surely you can’t be serious,” Nielsen dryly responds: “Yes, I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” And so was born a new Leslie Nielsen, vaulting from ‘70s TV guest star to Hollywood’s go-to buffoon in a single line reading. For the lion’s share of films out there, a single viewing will more than suffice—for Airplane! the notion is simply unthinkable. Matthew Grimm

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