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AIRPLANE! (1980)

What do you do when you're thousands of feet in the air, and at the mercy of an ex-pilot trying to woo his ex-girlfriend back into his arms? You sit and wait it out. With a potential romantic comedy on the horizon, the passengers of this wacky-fated plane await the loony outcome of their final destination. Meanwhile people are getting sick and there's a disparity between pilots, i.e. the ex-pilot or the "blow-up pilot doll"? With non-stop flashbacks, one-liners, hilarious cameos, and wacky events; Airplane! just might be the craziest movie you’ll ever see!

The zany cast includes: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, and Robert Stack.

Directed by: Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker. Written by: Jim Abrahams, David, and Jerry Zucker.

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Genre: comedy/romantic comedy

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Tagline: With a plane destined for Chicago, and an apprehensive ex-fighter pilot in charge of the flight, things are bound to get sticky for the passengers of the hilarious comedy, “Airplane!”.

In a gut-busting comedy that will have you holding your sides by the end of the film, Airplane! is a comedic success that, though sometimes obvious in its humor, evokes non-stop laughter. Both Entertainment Weekly and The American Film Institute have critically acclaimed Airplane! a comedic genius that stands amongst the greats. What’s more, Airplane! takes comedy to a whole new level when, arguably, the introduction of a new sub-genre of comedy (the comedic satire) is brought to the silver screen by the genius of the notorious ZAZ trio (Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker). Possibly the spoof of all spoofs, Airplane! brings comedic relief to the monotony of the 1970’s disaster and “airport” films with panache.

In fact, Airplane!’s plot is the least important thing in the film; obviously a motive of the satire. With passengers getting ill from food poisoning, a flashback of a choreographed disco dance scene, and more, the film’s “plot” begins when Ted Striker (Robert Hays) decides last minute to jump on the flight of his former love, Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty), in hopes of winning her back. But problems ensue when Striker, now a retired war pilot whose incidentally afraid to fly, will eventually have to overcome his fear and fly the plane; but more of that later!

Pan to a spoof of the infamous goodbye scene in “Since You Went Away”, Airplane! parodies the dramatic moment effortlessly. Pan back to the main plot (note the digression, it will become one of many hilarious parodies that follow), where Ted’s monotonous stories prompt his seatmates to commit suicide, in the utmost satirical way of course! With the suicides easily forgotten, the passengers turn their attention to their lunch menu; fish! After a quick wolf-down session, passengers begin to feel a bit, airsick? Is it turbulence, or could it be food poisoning! Quickly the stewardess seeks help from Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen), who’s prognostication warns that anyone who ate the fish will become violently ill, including the pilot, co-pilot and navigator. But once the latter are ill, who ever shall fly the plane? Stepping up to the plate is the apprehensive Ted Striker who makes his way to the cockpit for the first time since the war, whereby it should be noted he accidentally killed his war buddies. With the pressure on, Striker begins to literally sweat gallons; Ground Control, come in, come in!!

With the wacky ground crew in charge of helping the incompetent Striker, the audience is only in for more laughter, as these characters are by far the most hilarious and gag-filled of them all! On the ground you have Steve Mccroskey (Lloyd Bridges) and Rex Kramer (Robert Stack) who lead the rest of the wacky ground team, pulling one crazy stunt after the next; i.e. the sunglass gag, etc. Audiences should also pay attention to their dialogue, which is loaded. One after another, the crew hits you with a series of memorable one-liners and hilarious puns. Meanwhile, somewhere in the air up their, is their lone maverick Striker, in dire need of their helpless help, and trying to overcome his anxiety before he drowns the passengers with his gallons of sweat!

With a fast pace that keeps the film moving from one joke/spoof/gag/pun to the next, Airplane! is non-stop laughter. One hardly has enough time to recuperate from the latest gag when something new threatens the bladder to give way. Obvious jokes manage to skirt the boundaries of bad taste, always remaining on the safe side of the line. What’s more, the memorable scene between Hagerty and the “auto-pilot” blow-up doll is a spoof second to none. Also intrical to the humor and wit of the film are the multiple flashbacks. Often considered digressions, the flashbacks nevertheless work to paint a comedic picture of the passengers on board, particularly Striker and Elaine.

The cast of Airplane! give solid performances, which wasn’t easy considering the ZAZ trio’s agenda. More credit to the actors and actresses who were able to not just pull-off, but nail this hilarious film.

Main Characters:

Robert Hays plays the ex-fighter pilot war vet turned cab driver, Ted Striker whose very presence on the plane both wreaks chaos and heroism.

Julie Hagerty plays the ex-girlfriend/stewardess and co-pilot to be, Elaine Dickinson.

Lloyd Bridges plays Steven McCrosky, head of Chicago Flight Control and incidentally, the man in charge of helping striker land the plane.

Leslie Nielsen plays Dr. Rumack, the doctor who discovers that passenger and crew alike are plagued with a rare bout of food poisoning.

Robert Stack plays veteran pilot, Captain Rex Kramer, the man called in to save the day.

Stephen Stucker plays Johnny Hinshaw, the camp controller groundling with all the one-liners.