Movie #103: Airplane! (1980)

Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, and Lorna Patterson

airplaneposter

Ted Striker (Hays) has an extreme fear of flying following his experience as a fighter pilot.  When his girlfriend Elaine (Hagerty), a flight attendant, dumps him, he follows her onto her next flight in hopes of winning her back.  Unfortunately, the fish served on the flight poisons most of the crew and many of the passengers and Striker must land the plane.  Assisted by Dr. Rumack (Neilsen), a fellow passenger, ground-controller McCroskey (Bridges) and Kramer (Stack), his commanding officer during the war, Striker is able to land the plane and save everyone.

Following a string of successful disaster movies in the 1970s, the genre had reached a point where there were very few stories left to be told.  Parodying disaster movies seemed like the next logical step, and Airplane! does a great job of poking fun at every cliché imaginable.  Additionally, it gave rise to the parody film.  Though these types of films have completely sucked for the last decade (thank you Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer), there was a time when spoof movies were actually worth watching.

airplanehaysRobert Hays does great at Ted Striker.  It’s unfortunate that he really hasn’t been in anything else that’s noteworthy, though he was in Sharknado 2:The Second One.  As with many of the performances in Airplane!, he acts completely normal throughout and the wild and crazy dialogue he has is hilarious and is funnier because he says things in a matter-of-fact way.

airplaneneilsen This film also marked a transition in Leslie Neilsen’s acting career.  He would go on to do The Naked Gun trilogy, among many others.  He became synonymous with this type of movie, and I think his acting is spot on.  In fact, the script and matter-of-fact attitude that many of the supporting cast had throughout the film made for some of the biggest laughs.  Specifically, when someone would ask, “What is that?” the reply would be an explanation having nothing to do with the story, something the person would point out at the end of the explanation.

Greatest End Credits scene. "Well, I'll give him another twenty minutes, but that's it!"

Greatest End Credits scene. “Well, I’ll give him another twenty minutes, but that’s it!”

Airplane! is the type of film that’s funny every time you watch it.  The way the jokes blend in with the story seamlessly adds to the hilarity of this movie.  Airplane! was followed up with numerous spoof movies such as The Naked Gun and Hot Shots! series.  Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker do a great job of capturing the essence of the disaster movie and poking fun at it.  Leslie Neilsen, Lloyd Bridges, and Robert Stack provide strong supporting performances along with Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty.  This is definitely a film I’d recommend seeing at least once.  This is the way a spoof movie should be done.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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