Voted the number one comedy on numerous polls, beating the likes of Monty Python and Tootsie. For many, Airplane! is THE comedy movies, combining satire, word play and slapstick in an altogether hilarious way. For others, the movie is simply jarring like sitting with someone on a ten hour flight as they recall their depressing life history....
Leah and Paul are on both sides as they vie for your votes! So are you for or against Airplane!?
Comedy is a tricky swine. It's often regarded as one of the great unifiers amongst human kind, hence the reason why comedies are always such bankable fare in Hollywood. People love comedies because they love to laugh and it's really as simple as that. However, for all of the idea of comedy as the great unifier, the line between what people regard as funny and not funny can be as sharply divisive as any other. Some people just don't find certain jokes funny, whereas others are more turned off by types of humour than the subject matter. But that's why there are so many different types of humour, so that everyone can be in on the gag. The joke can be the most sophisticated of witticisms, or it can be the most basic of pratfalls. You can build a joke like a chemistry experiment, out of subtle individuals elements, each one harmless on their own, but mixed together and delivered right, it produces a cracker of a punch line. You can also use the simplest, most common of physical goofs, like slipping on a banana peel. There are even jokes that are funny precisely because they’re not meant to be... and Airplane! uses all of them.
People often talk about Airplane! as an anarchic comedy, a wild and crazy picture that shoots off jokes left and right with little real care as to what hits and what doesn't. There is certainly an element of truth to this. The manner in which jokes are fired at the audience would seem to suggest a haphazard approach to the genre, no real care taken in how the comedy is formed and little regard for audience reception. Throw everything at the wall, some of it bound to stick.
However, to write Airplane! off as something mindless or lacking in a comedic sense of timing so important to the genre is, frankly, doing both the film and those that like it a massive disservice. Airplane! displays an incredible amount of sophistication and dexterity when it comes to the types of humour it chooses to engage. It uses every weapon it has, and it proves again and again that it knows just how to use them.
You want visual gags? The opening riff on Jaws is there for you. You want wordplay? For you, we've got Captain Oveur's phone calls at the airport. Parody? The whole thing is a parody of disaster movies. You want callback humour? Airplane! has perhaps the greatest callback gag of all time, waiting until after the credits to capitalise on a joke it set up in about minute three of the film. Don't tell me Airplane! doesn't understand timing, because that's demonstrably untrue. You want two Girl Scouts beating the crap out each other, or June Cleaver speaking jive? See, you didn't even know you wanted either of those, and yet Airplane! just knew.
Airplane! knows comedy and it loves making it all work. Above all else, Airplane! loves what it does. The characters are so clearly cared for, so capably handled that, even a midst the rapid fire comedy, you lose none of the sweetness or tension or conflict. As far as comedies go, Airplane! is about as rock solid as they come.
Airplane! (aka Flying High! in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and the Philippines) is a 1980 Comedy film and a parody of the typical natural disaster genre. It is set mostly on an airplane, and starts Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty and also features Leslie Nielson. After most of the passengers, crew and pilots contract a deadly parasitic worm from the in-flight meals, no one is left to fly the plane except ex-pilot Ted Striker (Robert Heys) who has developed a fear of flying because of an unnamed war.
It generally depends on what era of films you were brought up on as to what type of comedy you like. Thus not every opinion of this film will be the same, as its mostly the comedic factor that attracts such vast audiences. The 1980’s was typical for its slapstick humour, and Airplane! is definitely no exception. As I was brought up on a completely different humour to slapstick, I have come to absolutely loath slapstick comedy such as Airplane!. It seems inconceivable to find such things funny, specifically in the film where the reporters say something along the lines of “let’s go take some photographs” and then proceed to take the hanging pictures off of the wall. Or “This woman has to be taken to a hospital.” “A hospital, what is it?” “It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.”
It just appears to be pun after pun after pun. Its attempts at humour are horrific at best, and the plot isn’t fabulous either. A case of deadly parasitic worms taking over every person on a plane except for an ex-pilot that is scared of flying, who turns on the autopilot (which actually turns out to be a blow up pilot, hahaha, no seriously, who on earth writes this stuff?) but will have to land the plane. And the person they call in to help him land? His ex-commander from the war. It’s one of those storylines that has been done so many times before, plane has troubles, a civilian has to try and land it. The acting is horrendous, which was perhaps to add to the comedic affect, though we should highly doubt that. Leslie Nielson always seems to appear in these slapstick comedy films, such as The Naked Gun and Spy Hard, and does not make much of an improvement of this awful performance in his later roles.
Airplane! seems to be like Marmite. You either love it or you hate it, though this appears to be down to the era you were born in, instead of the badly written scripts. Though you do need at least a semi-decent storyline in order to make a decent film, and Airplane! lacks that too. I just don’t see how anyone could name it the Number 1 in The 50 Funniest Comedies Ever poll (yes Empire, I am looking at you.)