[Happy 35th Birthday!] Airplane! (1980)

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Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

 

Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen

Screenplay: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

88 mins. Rated PG.

 

As a child, I was a bit of a goofball, like many kids are. My influences were of a particular variety like Jim Carrey, Harold Ramis and, most notably, Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, Stan Helsing). Early in my childhood, I connected to Nielsen’s brand of comedy. His form of wordplay and parody combined with his perfect timing allowed for some of the greatest moments in comedy. 35 years ago, the first film featuring Leslie Nielsen as a comedic performer, Airplane!, was released, and its time we look back on it.

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When Ted Striker (Robert Hays, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, Sharknado 2: The Second One) follows his stewardess ex-girlfriend Elaine (Julie Hagerty, She’s the Man, Confessions of a Shopaholic) aboard her next flight, he isn’t aware that a freak food poisoning incident would leave him the only man capable of flying the aircraft, and his drinking problem coupled with his regrets from the war have taken a toll on him. Now, it’s up to Striker, Elaine, and Dr. Rumack (Nielsen) to save the passengers and land the plane.

Airplane!, from the writer-director group of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, is the first true win for the three filmmakers. They took the script for the film Zero Hour, purchased up the rights, and turned it into one of the most quotable films of all time. Their decision to cast serious actors reading satirical dialogue is what makes it as hilarious as it is.

The directors set the tone perfectly from the first moment with their spoof of Jaws. From then on, they send up films like Saturday Night Fever with their gags about the beginnings and endings of Disco.

The film is a slow burn the first viewing. The directors have such a unique style that if you don’t know what you are getting into, it might take a bit to get it. Their comedy requires your full attention and that’s why it doesn’t happen anymore in recent films.

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Airplane! Is a comedy masterpiece, still as good today as it was 35 years ago when it first graced the screen. It ushered in a new subgenre of comedy that lasted almost three decades. Nielsen was ushered with it, and his career met new avenues.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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