A Hilarious Comedy That Holds Up Today
Despite the dubious title of Airplane!, complete with an exclamation mark and basic plot line, this goofy comedy stands the test of time with a brilliant use of comedic timing and a cleverly written script. Part spoof and part slapstick masterclass, Leslie Nielsen’s timing is impeccable in a film chock full of memorable moments and silly jokes.
The character driven story revolves around Ted Striker (Robert Hays), a man afraid to fly who, through a series of unfortunate events, finds himself forced to try and land the plane when the passengers and flight crew are too ill to fly. Its goofy and nonsensical but there’s no denying that Airplane! has an inherent charm and innocence about it that’s hard to match in modern films. Some of the jokes don’t always hit and the culturally relevant comedy doesn’t always hit 30+ years on but the way the jokes come thick and fast, thrown into the plot in increasingly outrageous and hilarious scenarios, stops Airplane! from becoming comedically contrived.
Although most of the characters aren’t all that memorable, despite the situational comedy that exists for the different passengers, it’s ultimately Leslie Nielsen’s portrayal as Dr. Rumack that stands out here. The deadpan nature he delivers his lines and the excellent dialogue between characters really helps elevate this comedy. On the surface, Airplane! feels like any other silly slapstick and in many ways it does fit that description but unlike other comedies that have to work hard to get laughs, Airplane! does so effortlessly, trusting the actors and the goofy script to do the work for them. Its not perfect, and some of the jokes don’t always hit but with so many that do, its hard not to love Airplane!
There’s no denying that Airplane! is one of the best comedies to ever be released. Its funny, its relentless and the comedy never feels contrived or forced. Leslie Nielsen is the star here and his expressionless delivery and comedic timing elevate him among some of the best actors working in the comedy scene. Its hard to notice the basic plot and characterisation because of the comedy and although these things do make Airplane! somewhat of a simple movie, its also an example of how to take a basic premise and spin it into a comedic masterpiece. There’s no denying the influence this film has had on pop culture and with jokes still referenced 35 years on, its testament to just how good this film is.