After writing about my favourite movie of all time (my review for Lost in Translation (2003) can be found here for those who missed it) I thought it’s a perfect time to re-visit my second favourite movie of all time, Airplane!. Unlike Lost in Translation, where I need to be in a certain mood to watch it, I can pop this comedy in any time I want and just relax, forget about the world for about hour and half and simply enjoy the delightful disaster…
To this day, Airplane! is the only movie that made me physically roll on the floor laughing. I am not exaggerating, when I watched this film for the very first time and the “calm down, lady!” scene came up, I just gave up and slid down on the floor, laughing and thinking this might be the funniest comedy I’ve ever seen. I was fairly young (I reckon I couldn’t be older than 15/16) and now, almost 15 years later, that statement is still true. I have seen a lot of comedies, TV shows, improvs, and plenty of them had me laughing hysterically, but nothing prior or since “the” Airplane! has made me laugh so hard I’d end up on the floor.
The biggest thing (and why this movie was a bit of a revolution when it came out) was because of the way they made it – a parody movie with a straight face! Can you imagine? Until then, it was unheard of for a comedy (especially American one!) to have such a silly script, silly scenes and plenty of what we would today call “dad jokes” delivered with almost a poker face (with the occasional wink at the cameras) as if the actors were in a dramatic Oscar movie. It’s by no accident this style quickly became the golden standard on how to deliver lines, do visual gags… well, at least for the ones who pay attention.
Plenty of people watched this movie and thought “Parodies are easy! We just need to take scenes from different movies, put our silly twist(s) on them, and job done!” And that is why in the late 90’s/early 2000’s we’ve gotten so many bad ones. Because that never was THE strength of this movie, even though they have done it here a few times. The biggest strength of this movie is the fact the movie works without you having to know the references. Who actually knows/remembers this movie is one giant parody of Zero Hour (1957)! A movie, I dare to say, most people who watched this movie, never even heard of, but guess what? That’s perfectly fine! Because this movie works without you knowing this material, it works because they throw plenty of jokes your way and most of them stick. Plenty of jokes you will only notice when you watch closely (again, you could argue this movie set a standard on how to do visual gags too) and it works because the movie is actually trying to have a story. Yes, that story is told in a funny/silly way, but it’s a story nonetheless you can still follow and be somehow invested in.
Just to make sure I am clear – I am not claiming this movie started the parody genre, or established visual gags. I know it didn’t. All I am saying is this movie worked so well, it brought back this genre, re-introduced certain techniques (like visual gags, delivering funny lines without characters realising how funny they are, playing it straight) to the masses and made Leslie Nielsen into the comedy legend he was. People often forget he’s had a really decent career prior this movie (he was acting since 1950!) but if it wasn’t for this movie I dare to say the world would have been a bit poorer not knowing his name. We were extremely lucky to have him for as long as we had and he definitely shines in this movie.
Airplane! is one of those films that even those it shows its age, it somehow stays funny and doesn’t feel “that” dated. There is something about these jokes and the way they are delivered, it just makes it for me. I’m always slightly afraid of re-visiting this movie, because what if those jokes aren’t as funny as I remember them being? But every time I re-watch this movie, I laugh and I’m reminded of that one evening, being really young and rolling on the floor. This movie will always have a special place in my heart. And I am serious, so please don’t call me Shirley 😉
That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!
Until next time,