5. Airplane!

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Movie: Airplane!

Release Date: July 2, 1980

Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker.

Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen.

Tag Lines: You’ve read the ad, now see the movie!”

“The IN-FLIGHT comedy that airlines won’t show!!{“

“What’s slower than a speeding bullet, and able to hit tall buildings at a single bound?”

“Thank God it’s Only a Motion Picture!”

“The craziest flight you’ll ever take!”

“The Plane’s going to Chicago. The Pilot’s going to New York. The Passengers are going to Pieces!”

Relevance: ‘Airplane!’ was released in theaters in the summer of 1980. A parody of the famous and popular disaster films of the 1970’s, it was immediately lauded by critics. It was also a financial success in the box office and eventually became the fourth highest grossing film of that year. It has since been hailed as one of the greatest comedies ever made, often landing at number one on comedy lists of critics and film institutes. At the very young age of nine, I did not see the film when it was released in theaters. However, once it played on HBO a few years later, it became a movie that made my stomach hurt from laughing so much and has since been my favorite comedy of all time.

I don’t recall the very first time I watched ‘Airplane!’ but I know that it was sometime in the early 1980’s and I was perhaps around the age of twelve. Thanks to HBO, I was able to watch the movie over and over again. Every time it aired, it was on at our house, much to the chagrin of my mom. My mother was a very funny woman who loved to laugh, but she loathed “silly” comedies. And this was a silly comedy to say the least. My father and I didn’t care. We loved it and it made both of us laugh so hard we would cry. My mother always knew which movie we were watching due to our laughter. She would walk into the living room, watch a scene and say “That’s so stupid” and walk away. Interestingly enough, she was always laughing when she said it. That always made my father and I laugh harder, if that were at all possible.

My father and I loved the film and all films like it. When ‘Airplane 2:The Sequel’ was on HBO, we watched that just as much as the original. Both films were just straight up silliness, and that was all we really needed most of the time. Both of the movies became a part of our movie collection via “recording them on blank VHS tapes.” That gave us the opportunity to watch them whenever we wanted and that happened to be a lot. Not only were they super funny, but also a little risqué, which was even better for me. The movie was the first time I remember seeing naked breasts in a movie, which at the time was very exciting for me. What made it funny was that I was watching it with my mom and dad. My mom’s reaction was priceless as she just yelled, “Hey!” By that time it was too late. I saw them, making the movie my favorite ever at the time.

My love for ‘Airplane!’ did not end when I grew up and went off to college. In fact, it became even more funny. Friends and I would watch this film and its sequel a lot. We would reference and quote the movie incessantly, always making us laugh. A theater friend of mine even incorporated some of the movie in some improvisational scenes for auditions of different shows. Sometimes that worked in getting us parts, sometimes it just made us crack up. Either way, great memories.

The film remained one of my favorite films and I would visit it any time I was feeling blue. It always cheered me up. It was a movie I could put on at any time and smiles would instantly appear. When my son reached his teenage years, he happened upon it on television one day. It was great to hear him laughing just as hard as me and my father laughed at it. Thankfully, he got the silly gene that passed through my family. ‘Airplane!’ was one of those rare movies that both he and I agree upon and could watch together. And when we do, we laugh. A lot.

Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker have made me laugh more than any other directors in history. Between the three of them, either as a group or solo adventure, ‘Airplane!’ represents their sixth film on my list of most influential movies of all time (see 309. Top Secret, 248. Ruthless People, 204. Hot Shots!, 99. The Naked Gun and 40. Ghost for the other five). They have given me and my family plenty of hours of smiles and laughter throughout the years and I can’t imagine my life without their cinematic art. We all need some silliness and goofiness in our life, and no one did it better than these three men. For me, ‘Airplane!’ was their crowning achievement and one that deservedly belongs in my top five favorite movies of all time.

Today’s Thoughts: “Oh, it’s a big pretty white plane with red stripes, curtains in the windows and wheels and it looks like a big Tylenol.”

When my husband found out that today’s movie was ‘Airplane!’ he was exasperated. “That’s your fifth favorite movie of all time!?” My response was simply what it has been to everyone that judged my blog this past year. “Yes. And if you don’t like it, make your own damn list.”

Not only do I own do I own the DVD of ‘Airplane!,’ I own the “Please Don’t Call Me Shirley Edition.” So when I re-watched the film today, partly with my doubting husband, I watched the “Long Haul” version. Basically it is the full movie but with added interviews and deleted scenes. So a usual eighty-seven minute movie was a little over two hours. More ‘Airplane?’ Sign me up.

‘Airplane!’ is a movie that no matter how many times I see it, I laugh uncontrollably. Is it stupid? You bet. But in the best possible way. The Abrahams/Zucker team know comedy, know what’s funny and you can tell that through watching just five minutes of this film. Forty years later, the jokes still work, because funny is funny. Period. I enjoyed the movie a little bit more than usual today with all of the deleted scenes and behind the scene tidbits shared by the cast and crew in the special interviews. (This was the first time I watched the “Long Haul” version.) I now know why it is such a funny movie, because Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers are funny people.

‘Airplane!’ is a classic comedy, no argument about it. In fact, in 2010 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Take that, husband! In all fairness, he does like the movie, just not as much as I do. I can’t imagine there is a single human above thirteen years old that hasn’t seen this film. If so, make them watch it immediately. I promise you will laugh.

“I just want to tell you both good luck. We’re all counting on you.”

Awards: Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker (nomination), National Film Registry (2010), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker.

Ways to Watch: Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, DVD Availability.

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