Airplane! (1980)

Airplane! is a really funny movie. It’s a spoof of disaster movies — in particular Zero Hour! and the Airport series — and consists primarily of slapstick comedy that is often no-sold by the actors around the central object of comedy. Everyone is deadpan and serious despite the absurdity going around them. That’s where it generates most of its humor, and for the most part it is very successful at doing so. There are definitely some failed moments, but the fast pace with which it throws jokes at you ensures that these failures are short-lived and almost inconsequential; you’ll be laughing again in a few seconds.

The film’s lead is Ted Striker (Robert Hays), a former fighter pilot who has been left traumatized after a war. He can’t fly anymore — not even in a commercial airline. His girlfriend, Elaine (Julie Hagerty), is a flight attendant, and she begins the film by leaving him. In an attempt to get her back, he boards the flight on which she is serving. Soon enough, the passengers get ill, the pilot and co-pilot pass out, and the plane is headed toward a disaster.

You can probably see where this is going. In order to save everyone aboard and prove himself in the eyes of Elaine, he’ll have to overcome his anxiety and take control of the plane. You might have seen this plot before — that’s because it’s basically how Zero Hour! worked. The difference being that Zero Hour! was serious, while Airplane! is silly. It does make all the difference. One works as scary disaster thriller, while the other one makes fun of scary disaster thrillers.

There isn’t much to Airplane! outside of the jokes. That’s okay. It’s not trying to be deep or much more than a silly laugh-fest that’ll keep you entertained for 90 minutes or so. Still, if you’re someone who prefers comedies with some meat on the bone, Airplane! is not that. It’s silly, light, fluffy, and won’t make you think at all. But it is funny, and that’s about all that a good comedy needs. Everything else is bonus, and while bonus is nice, it’s just that. It’s ultimately unnecessary.

Much of the film’s success comes not only from the flurry of jokes, but from the actors who work so well at making them work. The way that they slough off the gags and visual/verbal puns makes then even funnier. Leslie Nielsen shows up as a doctor, and does the film’s best work, delivering some of the most quotable lines in the process. Airplane! is a very quotable movie, by the way. You watch it and you will remember certain moments and lines you’ll want to try to work into daily life.

What else is there to say about Airplane!? Not a whole lot, I don’t think. We’ll end this review early, I think, so that you can go watch Airplane! and have some fun. Yes, those seconds — or maybe minutes, if you’re a slow reader, you slowpoke — matter. Airplane! is a really funny movie and if you’re a fan of the humor it presents (almost anything that doesn’t require intelligent thought in order to “get” it) and the speed with which it throws its humor at the viewer, then you’re going to have a good time. If you don’t like Airplane!, you’re probably a boring person. And a slowpoke.

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