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Voted "one of the ten funniest movies ever made" by the American Film Institute, AIRPLANE! is a masterpiece of off-the-wall comedy. Featuring Robert Hays as an ex-fighter pilot forced to take over the controls of an airliner when the flight crew succumbs to food poisoning; Julie Hagerty as his girlfriend/stewardess/co-pilot; and a cast of all-stars including Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar...and more! Their hilarious high jinks spoof airplane disaster flicks, religious zealots, television commercials, romantic love... the lists whirl by in rapid succession. And the story races from one moment of zany fun to the next!
For more about Airplane! and the Airplane! Blu-ray release, see Airplane! Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 29, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert Hays, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack
Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
» See full cast & crew
Airplane! Blu-ray Review
Surely this is a disc worth adding to your Blu-ray collection.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 29, 2011
Do you like movies about gladiators?
Airplane! parodies pretty much everything under the sun that even remotely has to do with air travel and the state of film in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The movie is concerned with almost nothing at all but its laughs; the plot is so streamlined and idiot-proof simple -- a couple on the rocks must reunite to safely pilot and land an aircraft in peril -- that it all but disappears in favor of the film's parade of jokes that overwhelm the story, even at its climax ("I just want to tell you both 'good luck.' We're all counting on you"). Airplane! is a laugh riot, no doubt about it, but it's not the end-all, be-all undisputed king of Comedies, at least note quite. It's sometimes feels a bit too whacky for its own good, resulting in a movie that's more about what joke is around the corner than what part of the plot is coming up next. That's where it differs from some of its peers: aren't Planes, Trains & Automobiles and The Naked Gun convenient examples? Airplane! is a classic whacky all-in Comedy that crams so much material into itself that a lot of it becomes lost in the shuffle and completely irrelevant to the story at hand. Most Comedies tend to work better within a more defined framework, but Airplane! comes about as close as a movie can to laughing in that rule's face and making it moot. This is highly entertaining stuff, but that's it. The substance exists completely in the humor, whether critical to or detached almost completely from the main story. It's a movie as much about its periphery as its primary plot, which in lesser hands would be an instant movie killer, but here is instead the core of one of the finer Comedies of its generation.
Ted Striker (Robert Hays) is a troubled former combat pilot suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which has all but negated his ability and desire to fly a plane. To make matters worse, his relationship with his girlfriend Elaine (Julie Hagerty) is on the brink of collapse. She's a flight attendant and he's got to catch her before her plane departs and, just maybe, takes her away for good. Fighting his way through airport distractions, he buys a ticket and boards her plane in the nick of time. The flight is moving along smoothly enough -- Ted's and Elaine's personal problems not withstanding -- but bad weather ahead promises that this flight is about to get a little bumpy. Add in that half the passengers -- and, as it turns out, the entire cockpit crew -- are coming down with a bad bug courtesy of some spoiled airline fish, and this flight seems positively doomed. Unless, of course, there's someone on board who can fly the plane, never mind that emergency inflatable doll. Can Ted put his past behind him, work things out with Elaine, and get the travelers safely back on the ground? Surely, one of the plane's passengers, a doctor named Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) -- and all of the people on the flight, for that matter -- are counting on him.
It's amazing how Airplane! hits every note dead-on with each gag. Whether the movie is goofy melodramatic -- the cheesy romantic strings that come up every time there's something even remotely resembling a love scene or even a loving glance in a person's direction -- or just having fun at the expense of any and all comers, including pestering airport religious folks, passengers who can only communicate in "jive," a random bar fight between two girl scouts that for a moment seems like a precursor to the extended fistfight in They Live, or an actual "smoking ticket" provided for the plane's smoking section, there's just never a dull moment and never a moment that's anything less than in complete harmony with the film's greater spirit and style. Even when the film lingers perhaps just a tad too long on totally superfluous characters, it does so with the best of intentions. "Random sick little girl" might not really factor into the plot in any way, shape, or form, but what she and the other minor characters, situations, and events do accomplish is to paint a much larger picture of complete and total absurdity that makes Airplane! a killer Comedy from nose to tail.
It's not only the visual gags that are so much fun, but the verbal humor as well. It works in perfect harmony with everything seen in the movie, and only enhances the picture's humor. There's not a bad joke in this flick, primarily because all of them keep it simple and are grounded in some appreciable reality. It's obvious the movie was written with some level of personal experience in all of the absurdities of air travel in mind (and just imagine what the movie might be like were it made with all of today's headaches added in for good measure...yikes, the movie would never get past security). Airplane! is just straight comedy gold as it spits out common vernacular but puts it together and delivers it in such a way that it pairs perfectly with the visual and/or situational humor (naming the pilots "Roger," "Oveur," and "Victor" for a bit of a "Who's on First?" sort of routine) or, perhaps more famously, serves as a kind of double entendre ("don't call me 'Shirley'"). With that, the delivery is absolutely key, and each actor is clearly up to the challenge, from the more than half-dozen "main" characters all the way down to the least significant background folk. Most of them deadpan it -- a style of which Leslie Nielsen is the undisputed champion -- but it's balanced out by a few characters who are on the opposite end of the spectrum, going absolutely over-the-top crazy in both their physical and verbal performances. The movie never gets too far to one extreme or the other, and that's part of why it works so well. It's structurally predictable but comically unpredictable, lending to it a balance that's hard to beat.
Airplane! Blu-ray, Video Quality
Finally, a 1980s Paramount title from the current wave that looks relatively good. Airplane! sports a 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer that doesn't appear to be the victim of a transfer-destroying level of noise reduction. On the contrary, there's a fine layer of active grain and no evidence of excessively smoothed over, waxy-looking faces. Skin textures are suitably complex, as are clothing materials, the seams in the inflatable automatic pilot, and general objects around the plane and inside the airport. Clarity is rather good, and there are several scenes where the string holding up an actor (Ted dancing Disco) or the airplane in exterior shots are readily visible. The image certainly sports a slightly dated appearance, though; colors are strong but not terribly vibrant. However, the brighter hues stand out nicely and naturally, just not with the sort of precision accuracy that might be found in a brand new movie. Black levels are honest, never going too gray and rarely exhibiting excess crush. This is a mostly solid transfer from Paramount; it's a shame neither Planes, Trains & Automobiles nor Footloose look this good.
Airplane! Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Airplane!'s DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack proves quite the satisfying experience. Various elements are surprisingly potent, with no shortage of effortless clarity and natural spacing in score delivery. Popular music is rich and pleasing, too. The Disco sequence featuring Stayin' Alive sounds absolutely fantastic; there's energy to spare, the tune is clear as a bell, and it stretches the front half of the soundstage to its limits. Unfortunately, a few sound effects take on a harsher, crunchier, almost indistinct audible texture. The plane crashing into the terminal at the beginning of the film, for instance, lacks both energy and clarity, somewhat lessening the scene's effectiveness. Still, terminal voiceovers are suitably spacious and, combined with the general din around the airport, the listener will feel fairly immersed in that environment. However, Airplane! is primarily a dialogue-based film, and there's no cause for alarm in that regard; the spoken word enjoys sound clarity and remains entrenched in the center speaker. This is a quality, but not perfect, soundtrack from Paramount.
Airplane! Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Airplane! contains a relatively short but nevertheless worthwhile assortment of extras.
Airplane! Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Airplane! is a Comedy classic the likes of which don't come around too often. It's not quite as good as something like Planes, Trains & Automobiles if only because it absolutely favors rapid-fire humor over telling a worthwhile story in the midst of the laughter, but there's no doubt that this is one of the funniest movies of all time, the absurdity and simplicity of its plot not withstanding and, in this rare case, not really mattering all that much. Classic dialogue, unforgettable visuals, and great characters all round Airplane! into a fantastic motion picture that just never gets old. Paramount's Blu-ray release of Airplane! features solid video, an all-around good lossless soundtrack, and a fair collection of extras. Highly recommended.
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