Reviewed by: Val Kermode

"Surely one of the funniest movies of all time."

What a wonderful film! Just the thought of it makes me smile. When you come across someone watching it, no matter what point it’s at, you just have to sit down and watch the rest. And that exclamation mark! Magic!

In 1970 there was Airport, featuring a Boeing with a bomber on board. Not a bad film, but followed by several years of disaster schlock, such as Skyjacked and Airport 1975, often starring Charlton Heston and too often including a sick child and a singing nun. Other stock characters were the guy with a bag full of stolen banknotes, the woman who’s terrified of flying and the couple who are just there for illicit sex. (They were also in The Towering Inferno, but I digress.) Anyway the Seventies was a great time for wallowing in disaster before it all went pear-shaped.

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Then suddenly it was the Eighties and along came Airplane! All the classic elements in a brilliantly funny spoof. Even with the talents of stars such as Lloyd Bridges and Leslie Nielsen, it could so easily have fallen flat. But in a lean 88 minutes it packs in everything that we loved to mock, plus a darker humour of its own, and so many laugh out loud moments there’s hardly time to take breath.

You don’t really need reminding of the plot. Never let the pilot and the co-pilot eat the fish. There’s always someone on board who knows how to fly a plane, but doesn’t think he can because of that thing he doesn’t want to talk about (In this case it’s Ted Striker, played by Robert Hays.) And there’s always a plucky stewardess (Julie Hagerty), who can save the day. This one also knows how to put a smile on the face of the automatic pilot.

Throw in a co-pilot who thinks he’s a basketball star, a pilot who likes to talk about gladiators and a certifiable loony in air traffic control and it just gets better and better. There’s always something extra going on in the background, my personal favourite being the young man being savaged by Lloyd Bridges’ dog. And there are several running gags. Surely one of the funniest movies of all time.

Don’t call me Shirley.

Reviewed on: 20 Mar 2009
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Airplane! packshot
When the crew of a plane suddenly gets sick, only one man can land it safely, and he's afraid to fly.
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Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker

Writer: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker

Starring: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Julie Hagerty, Robert Hays, Leslie Nielsen, Lorna Patterson, Robert Stack, Stephen Stucker

Year: 1980

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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