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AIRPLANE!
Reviewed August 27th, 2002 by David Nusair

 

Unlike the majority of so-called comedies released nowadays, Airplane! is actually funny. And get this; it doesnít rely on poo-poo jokes or similarly extreme kinds of humor to provoke laughter.

Ostensibly a parody of all those Airport flicks from the Ď70s, Airplane! winds up spoofing a variety of flicks and genres (from blacksploitation to surf movies). The underlying plot concerns a former pilot (Robert Hays) whoís experience in the war has given him an irrational fear of flying. Though heís just broken up with a stewardess (Julie Hagerty), he follows her to the airport hoping to reconcile and winds up buying a ticket on her next flight. Wackiness and hijinks ensue once onboard, after a virus infects most of the passengers and crew.

The key to the success of Airplane! is the rapid-fire succession of jokes. If you donít find a particular gag funny, another is waiting in the wings to replace it. There are even sequences with a multiple comedy bits going on at the same time. And unlike some of the more recent parody films, such as Dracula: Dead and Loving It or Spy Hard (both of which starred Leslie Nielson; go figure), the majority of the jokes in Airplane! are actually funny. If you like physical comedy, youíre taken care of. If you prefer a sense of humor runs more towards the subtle, youíre good too. The makers of Airplane! Ė Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker Ė are the same guys responsible for the short-lived but hilarious show Police Squad and itís spin-off, The Naked Gun series. Clearly, these are funny dudes.

Right from the opening few minutes, with the bizarre argument between the White Zone voice and the Red Zone voice, the tone is set for silliness. The storyline Ė with Hays forced to overcome his fear in order to save everyone on board the plane Ė is merely a clothesline used to hang the variety of jokes and set pieces (bad metaphor, I know, but it gets the point across). There are so many jokes here, and the majority of them work. Really, how can you go wrong with a film that features Leave it to Beaverís Barbara Billingsly as a jive-talking passenger? You canít.

Audio: Airplane! is presented with a DD 5.1 soundtrack and itís pretty impressive. Obviously, this isnít a flick with a lot of spatial sounds, but still, the soundtrack is effective in that it captures the variety of jokes and background noises that tend to occur all at once. This sounds like exactly what it is: A 2.0 soundtrack remixed to 5.1. Still, itís nice to have Airplane! sounding as though it was made more recently than 20 years ago.

Video: As good as the soundtrack is, the transfer is better. Anamorphically enhanced at a ratio of 1.85:1, Airplane! has never looked this good before (well, maybe it did on the big screen, but thatís about it). Itís crisp and clear, and there are few instances of film-related grain.

Extras: The only real extra here is a commentary track featuring the three directors and the producer, Jon Davison. As much as I was expected to enjoy the heck out of this, I canít say I did. The four are obviously good friends and had a great time filming the movie, but the majority of the track consists of them laughing at their own jokes. Whatís worse, there are a lot of inside comments that only they can understand. Still, there are a few informational moments (such as the original line of dialogue instead of ďyou ever seen a grown man naked?Ē), but still, this should have been way better. Thereís also a trailer.

Conclusion: Airplane! is a comedy classic. Donít miss it.

 

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