Airplane!

  • Title:  Airplane!
  • Directors:  Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
  • Date:  1980
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  NTSC, Region 1

Airplane is a 70’s movie, despite being made in 1980.  Like many of the comedies of the 1970s – some of  the jokes are inappropriate, especially now, thirty years on.  However, also like many 70s comedies — the film is so over-the-top and so broad in it’s humor that it is just funny and humor that could easily be offensive, just somehow isn’t, for the most part.  Part of  it is certainly that the movie parodies everything in sight from commercials to disco films and the equal-opportunity kidding becomes just that – kidding, not mean-spirited.  Here and there a few lines or sight gags make one wince – but some of them did when the film came out in 1980.

Airplane is a brilliant parody of 1970s airplane disaster films — such as Airport and it’s sequels.  And, although I have never seen Airport – I saw Airplane when it came out in 1980.  The film also parodies other films of the 70s – from the opening sequence – a parody of Jaws, including the music – to Saturday Night Fever, also including the music.  But the film also parodies social trends such as Tupperware parties, and commercials – such as a woman wondering why her husband asks the stewardess for a second cup of  coffee, when he never asks for a second cup of her coffee.  The film is also filled with sight gags, and clever wordplay, from the “Who’s on First”-inspired radio conversation between Capt. Oveur, his co-pilot Roger, and his navigator Victor to Leslie Nielson  reminding everyone to not call him Shirley.  (As in, “Surely, you can’t be serious!” / “I’m deadly serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”)

But the film is filled with great performances – Robert Hays, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges,and the aforementioned Leslie Nielsen are all brilliant.  This, actually, was the film that started Nielsen on a new career – previously he had played the earnest, intense, heroic protagonist that he is sending up in this film at his dead-pan best.

Also, like many 70s movies, Airplane! features great music as part of the actual plot of the film, including the Theme from Jaws, Stayin’ Alive, Respect, River Jordan (by Peter Yarrow), and the Norte Dame Victory March (yes, you read that right – a football fight song).

However, the, at times, inappropriate humor, smoking, and drug and alcohol use make this not a film for kids, despite the PG rating (note:  It was made before PG-13 was introduced into the ratings system).

Recommendation:  See it if  you enjoy broad comedy and can make allowances for the 1970s-style humor.
Rating:  3 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Alien Nation