The Comedy Vault – Airplane!

Airplane! (1980)

I didn’t plan to review too many American comedy films, but this is such a great one that I wanted to do a piece about it. I don’t want to rant again about quotes on film posters, but when it comes to comedy films, there’s always someone who thinks that it’s the funniest film ever made, or exaggerates how much they liked it and says “I laughed so much that I had a heart attack, and after I was resuscitated on the floor surrounded by my own blood and guts, I laughed some more”.

But this one really does deserve the plaudits that it has received, being packed with jokes, great wordplay, and also featuring some terrifically deadpan performances by veteran actors as the unlikeliest things happened around them. Airplane! was essentially a parody of the series of Airport films, and although there is a plot, it’s mostly a series of set-pieces, and I will try to pick out some of the highlights.

The passengers on this plane aren’t aware that they’re about to have the ride of their life. Ted Striker is an ex-fighter pilot who has to take over the controls of a plane when the crew get food poisoning. He begins to get flashbacks from the war and isn’t sure if he is up to the task. He has to get on with it though. Everyone is depending on him, and the tension begins to mount.

What he has to do is just like that round on The Krypton Factor, only more intense. But he manages to push all the right buttons at the right time (with a little help from his inflatable friend Otto), and save the day, hugely impressing stewardess Elaine. They won’t forget that in a hurry! The jokes do come thick and fast, and they really are terrific. Airplane! was a big success with critics, and two years later there was a sequel (called The Sequel), and I’ll review that one soon too.

Scenes from Airplane! have also often been parodied in Family Guy, and rather oddly some dialogue was sampled in the late-80s dance classic “Break 4 Love” by Raze. The team behind this film would also go on to make the acclaimed sitcom Police Squad!, and The Naked Gun trilogy, featuring Leslie Nielsen, who was one of the stars of this one. The DVD extras are a trail and a commentary from the directors.

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