Anthony's Film Review

Airplane! (1980)

This early comedy by a writing, producing, and directing trio is zany and silly...

Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker have introduced modern cinema to a unique brand of humor. It's the kind that really can't be described with a single word. Therefore, I will list several: senseless, irreverent, silly, goofy, unexpected, surprising, over the top, zany, etc. Basically, it's the opposite of comedy that stays within the bounds of reality. And they throw jokes at you at a rapid-fire pace. Sometimes, the jokes are in the background, but if you successfully hunt for them, you will still laugh.

Airplane! meshes this type of humor with an in-flight disaster. The movie is about a commercial flight that takes a turn for the worst when the crew and several passengers suffer from food poisoning. The main character is Ted Striker (Robert Hays), a former fighter jet pilot with an intense fear of flying. He's on this plane only because he doesn't want to lose his stewardess girlfriend Elaine (Julie Hagerty). Now, there are other characters since the real focus is humor. There is Peter Graves as Captain Oveur with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the co-pilot Roger Murdock (imagine the confusing cockpit dialogue involved), Leslie Nielsen as a doctor, and Lloyd Bridges as McCroskey down on the ground.

The movie is sort of divided into two acts. Act I is before the food poisoning and Act II occurs after. There are jokes in both halves, though they are a lot funnier in the latter. The first part spends plenty of time with Ted as he is having flashbacks about Elaine and the disaster in the war he fought. It's not one scene or even two. It's more like three or four. It's enough to make you somewhat bored. In fact, the passengers who have to listen to Ted's story are so bored by him that they try to kill themselves.

The movie is only an hour and twenty minutes long, yet the pacing of the plot is not terribly quick, even in Act II. When Ted has to land the plane, since he's everyone's only hope, the whole thing spans several minutes of the film. You are sitting there on the edge of your seat, gripped by suspense while anticipating some big laughs. You might say that the suspense enhances the humor. Intense situations are probably the best ones to make fun of.

Airplane! made me laugh a lot. And no, I cannot tell you how many times. I never started counting and I would have lost count anyway if I started. The Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio know what can make people laugh. The crazier, the better. Speaking of this, I only have an issue with the MPAA rating. This is a PG-rated movie with a scene of topless female nudity, another joke about women's breasts, simulated oral sex, and suggestive homosexual references. It is definitely due for a re-rating to PG-13. I say this only because the PG rating may lead you to underestimate how far the ZAZ would go to make you laugh.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Airplane!, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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