Airplane!


In honor of an election - and an entire political system - that has turned into a pie-in-the-face farce, this week on Cinemavenger Classics we nosedive into one of the farciest farces ever to farce across a screen, Airplane!


A parody of disaster movies, in particular the full traffic pattern of air travel-related disaster flicks from the 70s, Airplane! came out in 1980 and has been copied, imitated, homaged, and straight up stolen from by lesser films ever since. From its Jaws-biting opening moments, Airplane! promises to bring the funny, and before it's over, the funny has done been broughten.


A shot of the Mayo Clinic has copious jars of mayonnaise on shelves. Subtitles of a conversation in jive helpfully educate all the squares that "shit" means "golly." Two airport PA announcers can't agree on whether the red zone or white zone is for passenger loading and unloading, and their tiff gets more and more personal until one tells the other she needs to get an abortion.


The hero, Ted Striker (Robert "Roll In The" Hays), a former pilot now deathly afraid of flying, is only on the plane to try to win back his lady love, Elaine (Julie "No Old" Hagerty), and his aerophobia manifests as a hilariously literal drinking problem. When all three pilots, named Over, Victor, and Roger - ha!, are incapacitated by their inflight meal (remember inflight meals?), Striker is the rest of the passengers' only hope to land the plane safely. Unfortunately, he's so PTSD-addled that the blowup doll "automatic pilot" has to take the stick over and over again. You know, when it's not trying to fuck Elaine.


For all the slapstick and sight gags, Airplane! soars on its wordplay. A doctor on the flight (Leslie "Straight Man" Nielsen) just wants everyone to stop calling him Shirley. Air traffic controller Steve McCroskey (Lloyd "Nash" Bridges) has to help Striker try to land the jet, which means poor Steve picked the wrong day to quit smoking. And drinking. And sniffing glue.


1980 was a simpler, pre-political correctness time, so pretty much nothing is off limits. There are jokes about Jews, African Americans, homosexuals, sick kids, and religion. Nothing is sacred and no one is innocent, and that makes Airplane! one of the most high-lariously funny movies of all time.


But that's not important right now.


November 6, 2020

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