Airplane!

"Essential"

Airplane! Review


If Airplane! isn't the funniest English-language movie ever made, it could at least get into some spirited comedy fisticuffs with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, A Fish Called Wanda, or Wayne's World for the title. It might win, too. The first non-sketch film from the team of Zucker (David), Abrahams, and Zucker (Jerry) established the joke-a-minute-spoof subgenre, frequented by various iterations of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team (not to mention several imitators); this means it gets credit for The Naked Gun, but also the blame for Scary Movie 2.

But Airplane! doesn't reign just by calling firsties. Or rather, it does - because it hit the bull's eye so dead-center that there wasn't much room left for other arrows. It purportedly spoofs the airplane-based disaster movies so popular at the time of its 1980 release, but much of the main plot (a scarred war pilot must attempt to land a passenger jet during a storm when the crew falls ill) and even some specific scene are lifted from the little-known 1957 B-movie Zero Hour (unseen by me); it simultaneously satirizes one particularly obscure film, '70s disaster films, and every bad B-movie you've ever seen.

Other movies with a similar style predate this one; Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run, and the Mel Brooks genre spoofs like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles come to mind. But Airplane! takes the high-volume-joke approach to wholesale levels; there is simply no dopey gag ("and stop calling me Shirley") nor shtick (puns, slapstick, casual surrealism) unturned, and no more than a few seconds between unturnings.

The Zuckers and Abrahams also managed to recruit the perfect movie-spoofing cast, whereas the '70s Mel Brooks movies, good as they are, tend to rely on familiar comic faces. Airplane!, in contrast, contains very little mugging. Leslie Nielsen, hilarious as he is in the Naked Gun series, has never been so bone-dry in the second-act comedy career this film launched; Lloyd Bridges, likewise, is amusing in the Hot Shots! movies but completes a perfect slow burn into insanity here (the "wrong day to quit smoking" becomes the "wrong day to quiet amphetamines"). The whole team plays even the most outlandish gags, such as the repeated suicide attempts during Ted Striker's (Robert Hays) backstory monologues, perfectly straight.

The result is a film that's not just funny but completely funny, ridiculously funny, unrelentingly funny; a comedy that, while inconsequential in many ways, is just about impossible to improve upon. This may be the Zuckers' strangest, most lasting joke of all.

The new DVD of the film is a real treasure, featuring a version of the film that jumps to outtakes, deleted scenes, and copious interviews with nearly everyone involved in the film, down to the most minor characters. All manner of trivia is revealed -- David Letterman was tested for the lead role -- and seeing the principals again 25 years later is truly eye-opening. There's also a standard commentary track with the directors and a trivia track.



Airplane!

Facts and Figures

Genre: Comedies

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 2nd July 1980

Box Office Worldwide: $83.5M

Budget: $3.5M

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Paramount Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Fresh: 55 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Howard W. Koch,

Starring: as Ted Striker, as Elaine, as Murdock, as McCroskey, as Captain Oveur, as Dr. Rumack, Lorna Patterson as Randy, as Rex Kramer, Stephen Stucker as Johnny, as Religious zealot #6, Frank Ashmore as Victor Basta, as Gunderson, Craig Berenson as Paul Carey, Barbara Billingsley as Jive Lady, Lee Bryant as Mrs. Hammen, Joyce Bulifant as Mrs. Davis, Mae E. Campbell as Security Lady, as Lieutenant Hurwitz, Jimmie Walker as Windshield Wiper Man, Jill Whelan as Lisa Davis

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.