Review of 'Airplane!'

airplane.jpg Ex-fighter pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays) is traumatised following an incident in the war and is terrified of flying. The love of his life Elaine (Julie Hagerty) is a stewardess and, following her to the airport, reluctantly purchases a ticket on her flight. During the flight the pilots and many of the passengers become ill having eaten the fish so it is up to Ted to overcome his trauma and safely land the plane.

Yep, that about sums up the plot but here that is far less important than the hundreds of gags that line this film from start (listen to the airport announcements during the credits) to finish (read the credits closely). The writers are said to have been thinking of this film for many years (effectively recreating the much more serious 1957 film “Zero Hour!”), accumulating material that they eventually managed to throw into a reasonable approximation of a story. Along the way they managed to get some pretty good talent: Lloyd Bridges as airport controller Steve McCroskey, Peter Graves as Captain Clarence Oveur (“have you ever seen a grown man naked billy?”), Leslie Nielsen as Dr. Rumack (previously only known for series roles), famous basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as co-pilot Roger Murdock, Robert Stack as Captain Rex Kramer and even an absurd cameo by Ethel Merman as a mentally confused serviceman (“Everything's coming up roses…”).

The effects are intentionally shoddy as well as the script and acting, taking firm aim at the disaster movies of the time yet, surprisingly, still managing to hold up quite well to a contemporary audience. This is film farce at it's best with nothing to be taken seriously, indeed, the only serious thing about the film is treated more than a bit ironically - the relationship between Elaine and Ted (lots of serious talk here while mayhem ensues around them). The $3 million budget was tiny for the time but much, it seems, was spent on the talent.

The entire film is ultimate slapstick so may alienate a certain segment of the film-going public…do not expect any high-brow humour here – Fart jokes, breast jokes, and silliness abound. The best bet is just to sit back and take it all in. On repeated viewings, see what bits you have missed as you likely have missed a few. BTW, there are some fairly strong sexual references here (for example, the blow-up “automatic pilot”'s emergency inflation tube being suspiciously located around his midriff…).

Yeah, I must guiltily admit, it is quite funny…

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2019-12-29

Directed by: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Year: 1980

Length: 88 minutes

Genre: Comedy