Airplane!; comedy/ parody, USA, 1980; D: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, S: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
A smooth flight to Chicago comes to a rough dead end when all the pilots and half of passengers become sick from food poisoning after eating fish. Dr. Rumack quickly realizes that the only healthy person on board who is able to somewhat fly an airplane is the traumatized ex-pilot Ted Striker, afraid of flying, who is not in good relations with his ex-girlfriend, stewardess Elaine. Still, thanks to her motivation and the instructions from the airport by Kramer and McCroskey, Striker manages to land the airplane (semi)-safely.
There are 99 wrong ways of doing a parody movie and only one right way, and the debut film by the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio did it the right way: "Airplane!" is a grand spoof on mass of disaster films which inhabited the US cinemas in the 70s, a hilarious comedy of the absurd that almost reaches Monty Python's or Marx brothers' proportions of insanity, while at the same time discovering Leslie Nielsen as a comedian. It is walking on thin ice the whole time, especially during some too obscure gags, but thanks to a tight rhythm, focused tone and a contagiously fun touch, "Airplane!" is one of those comedies where even "dumb" jokes cause a good laugh. It is not stylistically sure as their "Top Secret!" and some complained when the screenplay was nominated for a BAFTA and the movie itself as best picture - musical or comedy at the Golden Globe ceremony, yet the wide range of jokes, varying from silly dialogues ("Captain, how soon can you land?" - "I can't tell". - "You can tell me. I'm a doctor." - "No. I mean I'm just not sure." - Well, can't you take a guess?" - "Well, not for another two hours". - "...You can't take a guess...for another two hours?"), through slapstick (the obnoxious dog harassing a courier at Kramer's home) to sight gags (when the autopilot goes down and causes a turbulence, Dr. Rumack, seen near a woman spreading her legs for a gynecological examination, turns around and says: "What in God's name is going on in there?!") simply all contribute to a good fun.