Upon a late departing flight,
There is a quiet lovers’ fight.
Ted Striker follows, nonetheless,
His dear Elaine, a stewardess.
Within this plane are people odd:
Ted’s long tales make them more than nod.
They punish panicked passengers.
The captain spouts non sequiturs.
When dinner’s done, some flyers wish
That they had never ordered fish.
The pilots soon are turned to mush,
And they need Ted, who needs a push.
He used to fly back in the war
And later joined the ol’ Peace Corps,
But he’s been haunted (Zipp knows why)
And is too overwhelmed to fly.
A deadpan doctor spurs him on
To land the plane before the dawn
To save the deathly ill aboard,
For time’s one thing they can’t afford.
Assisted by a fellow vet,
Ted lands the plane through floods of sweat.
He’s reunited with Elaine,
And Autopilot steals the plane!

I’ll just say that Airplane! is probably the funniest movie ever made. I’m not saying it’s the greatest comedy because the best comedies have insight, heart, or brain cells, but based solely on the quantity and volume of laughs, Airplane! is the one. Though the plot is borrowed from the 1957 drama Zero Hour!, the film is full of original but now oh-so-familiar jokes. From the clever names of the pilots (Clarence Oveur, Roger, Victor) that are bounced around during takeoff to the feel-good musical interlude that leaves everyone smiling at each other and the camera, the film is just one guffaw after another.

Some of the humor is perhaps wasted on the youth of today because of the inclusion of actors playing against type. Those who don’t remember Leave It to Beaver may not laugh quite as hard at the jive-talking segment if they don’t know who Barbara Billingsley is. Leslie Nielsen, in particular, totally transformed his established serious persona, leading to future deadpan comedic roles, such as another Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker (ZAZ) film The Naked Gun (which my VC prefers). After seeing those two films, neither my VC nor I will ever look at him without wanting to laugh.

Not all of the jokes are funny: there’s a distasteful abortion joke that introduces the film and one scene of panic includes unnecessary explicit nudity, which sadly prevents Airplane! from being family friendly. These few unfortunate crudities are luckily overshadowed by an abundance of clean and laugh-out-loud absurdities, from commercial parodies to repeated oblivious wordplay to a number of hilarious cameos that are better seen than read about. Airplane! is at its best when the jokes, both visual and verbal, flow so quickly that you can’t stop laughing at the first, let alone all the others flung out in succession; the bar scene is the best example. (Go watch it now; you know you want to!)

Since some of the actors found their best-known roles here, the film has even led to modern cameos for a certain basketball star and Robert Hays, the latter of whom appeared in the recent Sharknado 2 as a pilot. Airplane! is one of those rare comedies that can be watched and rewatched simply for the sake of noticing jokes that slipped through the cracks as you were cachinnating at the more obvious ones. Full of instantly recognizable quotes and that unique brand of Zucker ridiculousness, Airplane! is a very bright blip on the comedy radar.

Best line (I couldn’t choose): (Dr. Rumack) “Can you fly this plane, and land it?”
(Ted Striker) “Surely you can’t be serious.”
(Dr. Rumack) “I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.”
(Lady next to Ted on the plane) “Nervous?”
(Ted) “Yes.”
(Lady) “First time?”
(Ted) “No, I’ve been nervous lots of times.”
(McCroskey) “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking/drinking/amphetamines/sniffing glue.”


Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 10
Visual Effects: 6
Originality: 10
Watchability: 10
Other (nudity, language): -1
TOTAL: 48 out of 60

Next: #136 – Julie and Julia

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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