The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.
Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Mark Zucker
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.
So I have finally seen Airplane!, the now-legendary comedy that I have heard quoted countless times over the years.
Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious.
Rumack: I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.
A spoof on the disaster film genre, Airplane! still brings the laughs even to this day. Based around a single flight, the movie incorporates a few different subplots involving its passengers. There’s the ex-fighter pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays), who was traumatized during the war and now has a unique drinking problem. He’s trying to get back together with his (recently ex-) girlfriend Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty), an airline stewardess who grew tired of his pathetic antics. There’s the problem with the airline food; apparently, the fish dinner gave many of the passengers (including the pilot) food poisoning. This raises the question: who is going to land the plane?
I laughed a lot during Airplane!, though maybe not as much as audiences did during its 1980s heyday. Some of the rapid-delivery jokes don’t work as well today, but there is still a lot to like. I loved the non-politically correct humor, such as plain English subtitles appearing on screen as two black gentlemen spoke “Jive” (as the movie called it). I loved the random cuts involving various passengers on the plane, including this gem from two children:
Young Boy with Coffee: Excuse me, I happened to be passing, and I thought you might like some coffee.
Little Girl: Oh, that’s very nice of you, thank you.
Little Girl: Oh, won’t you sit down?
Young Boy with Coffee: Cream?
Little Girl: No, thank you, I take it black, like my men.
So freaking random, and yet so great. Also, I really enjoyed the deadpan delivery from many of the characters, including Leslie Nielsen’s brilliant one-liners. So much fun all-around.
The movie’s cast is in top notch form here, with Leslie Nielsen stealing the show as Dr. Rumack. I loved him in Naked Gun, and he is just as fun in Airplane. Peter Graves has some great moments as the pilot, including another non-PC sequence where he asks a child, “have you ever seen a grown man naked?” This boy (Robert Harris) has a funny moment where he bashes the basketball skills of co-pilot Roger Murdock (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). It was also really cool to see Robert Stack in a movie, as I had only known him previously as the host of Unsolved Mysteries.
I am happy to have finally seen Airplane, and it was right up my alley since I am a huge fan of Naked Gun. Even with some jokes falling flat, it is still a blast to watch and it is worthy of its place in comedic history.