A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 164 – Airplane!

Airplane! – August 11th, 2010

Watching this tonight, my constant refrain was “This movie is PG?!” We’ve definitely discovered that ratings were a little bit more relaxed in the 60s and 70s. Seriously, watch this movie and tell me it wouldn’t get at least a PG13, if not an R now. There are so many sexual references it makes me dizzy. There’s drug use, violence, coarse language, shit. There’s a perky pair of bare breasts jiggling in panic. Of course, it’s also amazingly politically incorrect. Much like Kentucky Fried Movie, it’s a product of its time, and you can tell. It’s just a product of its time that’s rated PG. Amazingly. Shockingly. Bizarrely. I honestly can’t believe it.

Once again, this is the sort of movie that can be tough to write a review about. As it’s an Abrahams and Zucker movie it’s a satire full of little throwaway jokes, both spoken and visual. It would be flat out silly to try and recount them here. Not only would it be impossible to do concisely but the jokes just wouldn’t be as funny. Slapstick isn’t slapstick when it’s in text, and much of the movie’s script is the verbal equivalent, with characters delivering pratfall-like punchlines in every scene. The set-up is often obvious, especially when the jokes are ones that the movie’s been building up, like the “I picked the wrong week to quit…” joke and several instances with obvious things getting unnecessary descriptions, but you see what I mean? Those aren’t funny just there, and to make them funny would require that I do all the set-up that the movie does. Even if I wanted to devote the time and space to it, why? Why not just say “Watch the movie”?

Well, for one, the movie really does take a bit of patience. There’s plenty of humor to go around, but you do have to get through some highly questionable racial stereotypes. I honestly believe at least some of the potentially offensive racial content was put into the movie in good faith. There’s a good deal of laughing at the egotistical white folks. But it still makes me cringe. There’s a lot less misogyny than I thought there’d be, to be honest. I really expected more. So there’s that. But as I said, you do have to be aware of when this movie was made (the color scheme makes it obvious, in case you’re worried you might forget) and decide if the humorous bits that aren’t dated make the rest worth watching through.

For me, it is worth watching. Leslie Nielsen gives a fantastic performance as Dr. Rumack, delivering some incredibly ridiculous and inane lines with the straightest of straight faces. It’s hard to believe this was his first comedic performance. Everyone else gets to go all over the top and chew the scenery, even or especially the rest of the supposedly serious cast, like Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges and Peter Graves. But Dr. Rumack straight-mans through the whole thing. It was a brilliant bit of casting and his interactions with the rest of the cast provide some of the best moments in the movie. And in a movie chock full of moments, that’s impressive.

Oh yeah, there’s a plot. Um. It’s really just a backdrop for the buckets of jokes tossed into the movie, but it’s there. Since this is a parody of airplane dramas there is, of course, an emergency mid-flight. Both pilots and the navigator are incapacitated! Passengers are violently ill! Something was wrong with the fish! And the only man who can land the plane is Ted Striker! Who only got on the plane to try and save his relationship with stewardess Elaine! Because he’s avoided flying since the war when his decision cost seven pilots their lives! But he didn’t have the fish! And maybe this will make Elaine love him! All very dramatic, all played to the hilt, complete with flashbacks to earlier in their relationship and longing sighs and meaningful looks. But like I said, even though the plot itself is played for laughs, it’s just a backdrop for the rest of the humor.

Even though it’s dated, with references to older movies and commercials that haven’t been seen in decades, plenty of the humor is timeless. Ignore the rating and try not to cringe too much at the stereotypes and it’s still funny enough to laugh at now.

August 11, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Airplane!

August 11, 2010

Airplane!

We’ve already reviewed the first Abrahams and Zucker movie, Kentucky Fried Movie, but this is the movie that rocketed them to super-stardom and launched a lengthy career writing and directing spoof movies that has lasted to this very day. Not to mention redefining Leslie Nielsen’s career. I’m pretty sure that there’s a law somewhere now that you can’t make a spoof movie without Leslie Nielsen in it. (Like making a Pixar movie without John Ratzenberger.)

This is one of those movies that’s almost impossible to review because it’s become so much of an icon and inspiration. Sure there are dated references that don’t make much sense now (such as the ad spoof about the husband who “never has a second cup of coffee at home”) but the movie still keeps the spark that made it an instant hit way back in the seventies. It’s all about the mile a minute pace and the constant barrage of jokes. If one joke doesn’t quite work well that’s okay because there are ten more in the next minute, and some of them are bound to work.

The movie is filled with running gags like “don’t call me Shirley” or like Ted’s drinking problem. There’s the unforgettable and influential gag with the woman who can speak Jive. There’s Lloyd Bridges telling us that he chose the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. And there’s absolutely every line uttered by Stephen Stucker’s character Johnny. Even after having seen this movie many a time in the past I still had some real laughs tonight as we watched it again. I kind of wish I could have seen it in the theater. (I did see Airplane II: The Sequel in the theaters. It was the second ‘R’ rated movie I ever saw.)

Speaking of which: Amanda and I were amused and astonished that this movie received a ‘PG’ rating. It contains bare breasts, drug use, sexual references and profane language. Proof positive that as a nation we are becoming more censorious and conservative as the years go by.

The other thing we laughed about a lot as we watched this movie was how amazingly seventies it was. It’s not just the monotonously brown decor or the Saturday Night Fever inspired disco dance number either. Everything in this movie screams seventies. There’s the religious fanatics canvasing the airport (not something I ever remember experiencing and something you would certainly never see today.) There’s smoking in the airplane! And oh, the wardrobe!

There’s not much more I feel I need to say. Surely you’ve seen it already yourself. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Shirley!) This movie single-handedly launched an entire genre, and in spite of how dated it now is it still holds up well today. I sorely wish we had the sequel to watch tomorrow, but it’s out of print right now and we don’t own it yet. (Airplane II has William Shatner!) Maybe someday soon we’ll review Top Secret, or the Police Academy movies. (Don’t hold your breath for us to pick up any of the Scary Movie movies.)

August 11, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 2 Comments