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Airplane! (1980)

Flying High

Whats slower than a speeding bullet, and able to hit tall buildings at a single bound?

Directed by:

David Zucker & Jerry Zucker

Jim Abrahams

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 88 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: 15


Watching ‘Airplane!’ in 2005 – 25 years after its release – the first thing that springs to mind is that there’’s nothing particularly original about it. We’’re spoiled for choice in the spoof department nowadays, and the only thing that makes this one stand out is that it’ feels dated and ever-so-slightly racist.

But, for those watching it in cinemas in 1980, this was like manna from heaven. Theatre punters were sick to the back teeth of the seemingly endless stream of disaster movies (most notably the insipid ‘Airport’ franchise), and this was the Michael-extraction they’’d all been waiting for. Debutant writer-directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker may since have surpassed this in the chortle stakes with ‘Police Squad!’ and the ‘Naked Gun’ flicks, but at the time this stuff was comedy’’s big new thing.

The story i’s not particularly important, – Abrahams and the Zucker boys were putting rapid-fire gags and cinema send-ups ahead of plot development even a quarter of a century ago. But, in case you’’re interested, it’s about a jelly-backed battle veteran (Robert Hays) who has to overcome his fear of the skies and guide a passenger plane to safety when the crew are struck down by illness. Leslie Nielsen is also on-board as the predictably deadpan doctor, and look out for appearances from the likes of Lloyd Bridges, Julie Haggerty and one-time basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

To be perfectly honest, some of the jokes here are a bit on the rubbish side, but as usual with this writing team there are so many one-liners being delivered that enough of them work to keep the giggle quotient high. Among the bits that work the best are the scenes of confusion between a captain called Oveur and a right-hand man called Roger Murdock, and a great flash-back dig at ‘Saturday Night Fever’. If you take your comedy quick and silly, you’’ll be in your element with ‘Airplane!’

It's Got: An emergency call on line 5 from a Mr Ham.

It Needs: Ham on 5, hold the mayo.

DVD Extras A trailer, and a group commentary from Abrahams, the Zuckers and co-producer Jon Davison. DVD Extras Rating: 2/10


Airplane II: The Sequel, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, The Kentucky Fried Movie, The Naked Gun, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell Of Fear, Top Secret!


It might be a bit too old and creaky to consider leaving the ground in nowadays, but there are still plenty of belly-laughs to be had in this early one from the ‘Naked Gun’ blokes.