Carrying on from my review of “The Naked Gun” Movies, I will review “Airplane”! (1980), as well as its sequel, “Airplane II: The Sequel”. This is similar to the “Naked Gun” saga in that both feature Leslie Nielsen among the principle cast members, and they both poke fun at a certain film genre. With the “Naked Gun” it was cop dramas, with “Airplane”! it’s disaster films, particularly a 1957 film entitled “Zero Hour”, which has much the same premise as this parody remake.
As soon as the opening credits begin, the theme music from “Jaws” plays on the soundtrack, we see a backdrop of clouds, with a plane wing motioning through these clouds as though it were a shark. It’s then that we know that we’re in for a compelling flight.
The plot of the first movie concerns former fighter pilot, Ted Striker (Robert Hays), who has developed a phobia of flying following his time in a recent war. His lack of motivation causes his stewardess girlfriend, Elaine (Julie Hagerty), to end things with him. Desperate to win her back, Striker sneaks aboard the same plane.
However, some faulty fish served for dinner renders many of the passengers, as well as the crew, in a state of sickness. With nobody left to fly the plane, mild-mannered Doctor Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) suggests that they use one of the passengers to pilot the plane to safety. Perhaps a certain former pilot can jump in and save the day…
The sequel “Airplane II: The Sequel”(1982) sees the absence of Leslie Nielsen and the crew who were involved with the original picture (namely, David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams). However, the movie still works despite them being gone. In this installment, Striker finds himself forced to land another plane, this one being a lunar shuttle gone haywire. The jokes are still as hilarious as ever, though.
This was Leslie Nielsen’s first foray in comedic acting, having established himself as a dramatic actor in several flicks during the 1970’s. The material, like “Naked Gun”, is lampooning several 70’s disaster movies, sometimes word for word. In addition, there’s a hilarious send up of “Saturday Night Fever” that arises when Striker is reminiscing over his time with Elaine, which never fails to send me into stitches each time I see it!
“Airplane”! earns four out of five stars from me, as it’s a terrific send up of 1970’s disaster movies of yore. I’d advise teenagers of 15 and up to view this movie, as it contains copious amounts of sexual innuendo, as well as drug references and uses. There’s additionally a running gag involving various characters committing suicide in order to avoid having to listen to one of Striker’s boring stories (played for laughs, naturally).
However, kids might still have fun laughing at all the zany, screwball humour and jokes. That being said, “Airplane”! rates as a classic spoof of all time!