- Movie Rating -

Airplane! (1980)

| July 2, 1980

I don’t know, you might have thought that by this point in movie history that a movie like Airplane! might have seemed superfluous.  After the hack-strung folly of would-be latter disaster epics like Concord . . . Airport ’79, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, When Time Ran OutMeteorHurricane!, Avalanche and Cyclone it might have been safe to assume that the disaster picture was parodying itself.

But if it weren’t for the approach, Airplane! might not work so well.  This is a pitching machine of comedy, throwing everything at us an hoping that something will stick and since the jokes pile one on top of another, the success rate is about 85%.  The directors Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams and David Zucker know what is funny.  They pack the frame, remove all sense of serious commentary and just aim straight for the joke.

The willingness to go for broke is what works here.  The boys throw any joke out no matter how cornball or silly and because they don’t bother to set them up, the gags can stand on their own.  They just need the template of and Airport movie – in this case a commercial airliner that is doomed when the pilots come down with a case of food poisoning.  That’s all you need.  This plot is just a hanger for the jokes.

And the jokes work.  Take, for example, the co-pilot Roger Murdock, played  by basketball great Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, an appearence that owes to the habit of disaster movies to offer up random cameos for O.J. Simpson and Jimmie Walker.  At one point, the movie breaks the fourth wall by having a kid recognize Kareem as Kareem.  Turns out he really is Kareem.  This is final moment in the movie is a sight gag I wouldn’t dream of spoiling.

That’s the kind of anything-for-a-gag spirit of this film.  It works beautifully because it sticks to its guns.  It’s funny in a lot of ways and it’s funny most of the time, even when the sh– hits the fan . . . literally.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized