Friday, 8 January 2016

Comedy & Laughter: Film Review - Airplane! (1980)

Fig. 1 Airplane ! (1980) Movie Poster

Airplane! (1980) is an American comedy that was written and directed by all three of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker - The people behind "The Naked Gun" Franchise. Airplane! is regarded, by many, as one of the greatest film comedies of all time. Upon first viewing, it's humor lies in it's complete unpredictability. Often acting as a spoof of other film genres and disaster movies, Airplane! has turned into a true comedy classic.

Fig 2. Playing trumpets

Through the famous collaboration of the three Writers/Directors, we are also accompanied by Leslie Nelsen, who has starred in many of the Zucker, Zucker and Abrahams' films.Although he is by no means the main character, he offers some very memorable scenes and quotes to the film. Through it's extreme use of slapstick comedy, you simply don't know what's coming next. It uses visual comedy very regularly and so is quite easy to understand. If you're familiar with the style of American comedy, then this takes it to another level. In many ways, Airplane! breaks down the conventions of it's reality. As you can see in Fig. 3 a man is upside down, which is an obvious impossibility in those circumstances. It is very much aware of it's existence as fiction. In addition, to this the opening scene acts as a spoof of Steven Spielberg's film "Jaws" (1975), as we see the airplane flying through the sky as if it were a shark in the water. Another scene in the film, is when the main character Ted Striker (Played by Robert Hays_ is dancing in a bar, in the style of "Saturday Night Fever" (1977) - even while he's wearing the same clothing and the same iconic song is playing in the background. "Jaws" and "Saturday Night Fever" are very well known films, even now, and are of different genres, and this therefore demonstrates that film isn't afraid of mocking other films of other genres, and isn't concerned by their popularity.

Fig 3. Passengers

At it's heart, Airplane! could be considered as a Romance. The film's primary plot is Ted Striker's mission to get the girl, who he loves - Elaine Digerty (Played by Julie Hagerty). The film tells us about their past throughout the whole duration, and so when the "disaster" strikes and our hero is called to action, his main aim is to be with her again. As previously mentioned with regards to spoofs, the film's flashback sections are very cliche and so this contributed to the argument that the film is one big critique and pastiche of various genres and films.

For today's audience, this film will also demonstrate life and what was acceptable in films in the 1980s. There is one scene in particular where two black men are speaking to each other, who you can see in fig.3, and when they speak in a very obscure, but English, manner, we are giving subtitles. This would simply not be allowed in a modern film and so highlights how times have changed, with regards to racism in particular, in just over 35 years.

Fig. 4 "Boy's life" & "Nun's life"

It doesn't matter what your taste in comedy is, Airplane! has something in it that can make anyone laugh. Whether it's through the way it mocks other films or if it's just because of it's simple, yet effective, visual/slapstick comedy. Certain gags and punch lines of the film have cemented a place in cinema history, and could be a fair argument for being one of the best comedies. Airplane! will surely make you smile.

Illustration List:

 Fig 2. Playing trumpets - - (Accessed 08/01/2016)

Fig. 4 "Boy's life" & "Nun's life" - - (Accessed 08/01/2016)

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