Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
|Stars: Robert Hays (Ted Striker), Julie Hagerty (Elaine Dickinson), Lloyd Bridges (Steve
McCroskey), Leslie Nielsen (Doctor Rumack), Peter Graves (Capt. Clarence Oveur),
Robert Stack (Captain Rex Kramer), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Roger Murdoch), Lorna
Patterson (Randy), Stephen Stucker (Johnny)
|Year of Release: 1980
|Airplane II: The Sequel
|Director: Ken Finkleman
|Screenplay: Ken Finkleman
|Stars: Robert Hays (Ted Striker), Julie Hagerty (Elaine Dickinson), Lloyd Bridges (Steve
McCroskey), Chad Everett (Simon), Peter Graves (Capt. Clarence Oveur), Chuck Connors
(The Sarge), William Shatner (Buck Murdock), Raymond Burr (The Judge), John Vernon
(Dr. Stone), Stephen Stucker (Jacobs), Sonny Bono (The Bomber)
|MPAA Rating: PG
|Year of Release: 1982
Having already honed and perfected their unique brand of guerilla comedy in their
long-running Kentucky Fried Theater and 1977's The Kentucky Fried Movie
(which was directed by John Landis), it was finally time for the ZAZ team (brothers David
and Jerry Zucker and their childhood friend Jim Abrahams) to make their own
feature-length movie. The possibility of pulling it off seemed slim, as they were working
with a slim budget, and their previous attempt at lengthy comedy, the "Fistful of Yen"
segment in The Kentucky Fried Movie, was the weakest part of that movie.
Yet, with Airplane! they scored a huge success. An ingenuous parody of
high-concept disaster movies like Zero Hour (1957), Airport (1970),
Terror in the Sky (1971), and Airport 1975 (1975), Airplane! is a
nonstop assault of sight gags, silly verbal puns, and movie references. Although this kind of
comedy has become de rigueur since then, its over-the-top gusto was something
entirely new in 1980, and audiences ate it up.
The plotline is typical of airline disaster movies: A flight from L.A. to Chicago, populated
with an eclectic mix of American types, seems destined for tragedy when food poisoning
brings half of the passengers to the brink of death, including the two pilots and the
navigator. In a hokey, melodramatic turn, one of the passengers, Ted Striker (Robert Hays),
is a war pilot who has not been able to get over a failed mission that killed his entire
squadron. He is on the plane because he followed his girlfriend, stewardess Elaine
Dickinson (Julie Hagerty), who is trying to leave him after becoming fed up with his lack of
responsibility and inability to hold a job.
The key to Airplane!'s success is the ways Abrahams, Zucker, and Zucker work
within the accepted boundaries of the disaster genre to create the laughs. Some of the
scenes are played ludicrously straight, such as the big confrontation scene between Ted and
Elaine in the airport at the beginning of the film in which she explains her inability to stay
with him and he keeps pleading that he can change while the tragic, romantic music swells
in the background. The dialogue is right out of any Irwin Allen Grand Hotel-like
disaster flick, but the ZAZ team give it their unique spin by tacking on an unexpected
They pull a real coup by getting well-known actors to fill the various roles, which gives the
movie a legitimate feel, but also works comedically. Thus, seeing Leslie Nielsen, then a
serious actor known mainly for playing authority figures in the '50s and '60s, playing the
ridiculously serious Dr. Rumack, gives the role an added edge. His lines are funny, but
they're funnier because it's Leslie Nielsen delivering them in his deadpan style.
The same goes for Peter Graves, who is described in Baseline's Encyclopedia of
Film as having "made a long career out of being stolidly dignified and competent." As
Captain Clarence Oveur, he is exactly the opposite, especially as he is given to saying the
most incredibly inappropriate things to children. Lloyd Bridges, trading on his tough-guy
persona in Westerns and the TV series Sea Hunt plays the chain-smoking,
hard-drinking, amphetamine-taking, glue-sniffing airport controller Steve McCroskey to
grizzled perfection. However, perhaps best of all is the eternally serious and grave-voiced
Robert Stack (best known for playing Eliot Ness in the TV series The
Untouchables) as Captain Rex Kramer, one of Striker's old war pilots who is brought
in to help him land the plane.
Airplane! grabs you from the opening moments and doesn't let up for 90 minutes.
The best jokes come from the way the ZAZ team takes the familiar and twists it just
enough to become outrageous. They seem especially giddy in using children and elderly
women as the butt of jokes, as well as filling the background with all kinds of unexpected
sight gags, many of which you don't pick up without multiple viewings. They turn airport
recordings about parking zones into a battle over abortion, they manage to work Ethel
Merman into a joke inside a mental institution, and they exploit language conventions to
the nth degree by constantly allowing for double meanings and unexpected interpretations
whenever a character opens his or her mouth (the best is, of course: "Surely, you can't be
serious." "I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.").
As unlikely as it was, Airplane! became a huge hit and is now considered a comedy
classic (the American Film Institute listed it in the top 10 of their 100 best comedies).
Many have tried to emulate its brand of humor, including several later attempts by various
members of the ZAZ team, but none of them have quite reached Airplane!'s level.
This, of course, includes the 1982 sequel, aptly titled Airplane II: The
Sequel. None of the ZAZ team were associated, even as producers. Rather,
first-time writer/director Ken Finkleman took control, crafting a funny, but largely
redundant movie that borrows about fifty percent of its jokes from the first movie,
recycling them quite literally. Hays and Hagerty return to their roles as Striker and Elaine,
and the plot is basically run through a second time, except with a science fiction twist that
allows for some amusing parodies of Star Wars (1977) and 2001: A Space
This time around, it's not an airplane that is in trouble, but the first lunar shuttle taking
people to a new base on the moon. Obviously, this story takes place some two decades
after the events in Airpane!, but of course no one has aged. Peter Graves returns as
Captain Oveur, and rather than he and his crew getting food poisoning, they are either
ejected from the shuttle or gassed by R.O.K., the ship's malfunctioning computer that
sounds an awful lot like H.A.L. from 2001 (Finkleman names one of the co-pilots
Dave just so R.O.K. can ask at one point, "What are you doing, Dave?").
Finkleman, whose writing credits include the awful Grease 2 (1982) and the even
more awful Madonna screwball comedy Who's That Girl? (1987), does a good job
following in the ZAZ footsteps, even if he doesn't have much that is new to offer. The
only notable moments involve his more abstract sense of bizarre comedy, such as when
Striker escapes from a mental institution and runs past a man dressed in a full suit with a
microphone, standing in a spotlight singing the theme song to The Love Boat.
Why? Why not.
Airplane II: The Sequel has its share of belly laughs, even when William Shatner
comes in late in the movie and hams it up in a similar role to the one Robert Stack played.
The movie as a whole has a quick, thrown-together feel, and when it works, it works
largely on our fond memories of the first movie.
Airplane II: The Sequel DVDs|
|Airplane and Airplane II: The Sequel are
sold as separate DVDs, each with a SRP of $29.99.|
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Dolby Digital 1.0 Monaural (French)
Dolby Digital 1.0 Monaural (English, French)
Audio commentary by producer Jon Davidson and writer/directors Jim Abrahams, David
Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Original theatrical trailer
|Presented for the first time on home video in their original
1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, this new anamorphic transfers for both Airplane! and
Airplane II look very good. Airplane! was a fairly low-budget film, and it
shows from time to time in the image quality, which is a bit soft. However, detail level is
still high (which helps you find all the sight gags in the background), and colors looks
strong, with good saturation and natural flesh tones. There is a slight bit of graininess from
time to time, especially in the night scenes. However, overall this is an excellent transfer of
a 20-year-old movie. Airplane II has a slightly better picture that is a little bit
|Airplane!'s original monaural soundtrack has been
given the Dolby Digital 5.1. treatment to good effect. The dialogue and much of the action
is still relegated to the front soundstage, but Elmer Bernstein's perfectly pitched music (it
sounds exactly like a disaster-flick score) is expanded nicely into all five speakers. The
sound effects are also given some additional impact, but there is very little in the way of
low-frequency effects. Airplane II maintains its original one-channel mono, but it
still sounds excellent.|
|The Airplane! DVD features a running audio
commentary with producer Jon Davidson and writer/directors Jim Abrahams, David
Zucker, and Jerry Zucker. If you've heard their commentaries on the Naked Gun
DVDs, you know roughly what to expect: a laid-back, enjoyable, and sometimes frenetic
group discussion that often devolves into all four of them trying to talk over each other.
Listening to them discuss the movie is often as funny as the movie itself. They make a lot
of jokes, feeling no shame in pointing out the movie's many gaffes and less-than-stellar
special effects. The informative aspect of the commentary is somewhat limited, but they
give some nice anecdotes about the production (notable is their insistence that their perfect
parody of From Here to Eternity's famous beach love scene was not intended). The
disc also includes the original theatrical trailer, which is presented in anamorphic
The Airplane II DVD has no supplements.
ďżOverall Rating: (3.5)