Friday, July 8, 2016

Mike's Pick Of The Week - Airplane! The Movie

It's A Crazy Airplane Movie!

Airplane! 9.5/10


Zucker Abrams Zucker are pure comic geniuses. Before the Scary Movie franchise or those other parody movies like Meet The Spartans, Spy Hard, Date Movie, and Epic Movie, there was Zucker Abrams and Zucker. Responsible for Kentucky Fried Movie, From The Files Of Police Squad and of course the movies based on that short-lived TV series, Naked Gun.

Airplane!, for those of you who haven't seen it, is a spoof of all those 60's and 70's airplane disaster movies where the pilot would get sick or one of the passengers was dying of some unknown disease and that they had to land the plane in bad weather, which was usually fog mixed with a massive storm or blizzard and, of course, the always last minute power outages, so that the pilots can't see the runway lights, adding more drama on top of the already existing problems.

Airplane! was also a parody of the movie Zero Hour, going so far as to use the plot, structure and even the names of the characters (such as Ted Striker) in some cases. ZAZ had written the initial script for the movie in 1975 and showed it to some industry people who wanted them to pare it down to something more manageable, but they didn't really know how to go about making this script into something memorable. It wasn't until they made Kentuck Fried Movie and they understood the process of filmmaking, were they able to get the script together and film it, the way they wanted it done.

The viewer knows that this is a comedy from the start. When we hear the opening notes of the Jaws theme and see the tail of the plane moving through the clouds, we are set up for the type of movie this is going to be from the first scene. What makes this movie great is that it doesn't take itself seriously, while the actors play their roles seriously.

The movie is filled with smart jokes, especially when they break the fourth wall, but it's never overdone and even though some of them are stupid, it's so ridiculous, that it works.  Every joke in the movie works and are timed perfectly. In fact, they are so well done, ZAZ are able to weave them into the movie without breaking a beat. From the Saturday Night Fever/Bar Fight with the Girl Scouts to the scene where Striker is in a mental ward and one of the patients thinks that he's Ethel Merman. Even Striker's "drinking problem" never gets old.

What makes the movie special, are the actors. If the movie were full of comedians, it would have failed. It would have been too busy and over the top. The way that ZAZ approached the movie was smart. Hire serious actors for the roles, because it will be funnier for them to take the roles of their characters serious and put the crazy in the background and build the jokes around the actors.

That's what's wrong with today's parody movies. They don't write the movies, they write pieces of scenery and try to stuff in as much nonsense and nods to the audience as possible, instead of writing a movie. They depend on the movie viewer to ignore the plot and just watch the movie for the specific parodies and stupidity of the jokes to pull the movie along instead. It's not smart or even funny, it's lazy. That's what makes Airplane! even better.

It takes a special talent to be able to create a movie like this. Mel Brooks is another writer/director that was able to parody movies successfully during his career (and even then, not all of them worked) because he kept to the basics. Throwing everything at the screen and calling it a parody isn't a parody, it's the mark of a person that doesn't know what they are doing, so by doing the extreme and the obvious they think that it's funny and witty, and it's not.

Airplane! is funny and witty, it's a movie with great serious actors working with chaos happening around them and reacting to it. It's too bad that the ZAZ team doesn't work together any longer. They were great when they did work together and apart, they're OK, but nothing like it really should be.

Airplane! is a must see movie. So many great one-liners and scenes, that writing about it doesn't do it any justice. I'll never get over Macho Grande.


Airplane! (1980)
PG | 1h 28min | Comedy | 2 July 1980 (USA)
 Airplane! Poster
A man afraid to fly must ensure that a plane lands safely after the pilots become sick.
Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Writers: Jim Abrahams (written for the screen by), David Zucker (written for the screen by), Jerry Zucker
Stars: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen

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