Blog Directory CineVerse: Surely, you can't be serious, CineVerse

Surely, you can't be serious, CineVerse

Thursday, October 1, 2015

It's hard to hold a magnifying glass up close to the film Airplane! and examine it with any seriousness while keeping a straight face. Nevertheless, this is a movie deserving of props as a pioneering modern comedy that has undoubtedly influenced innumerable imitators and admirers over the past 35 years. Here's our take on the film, without relying on any Automatic Pilot-type analysis:

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN INNOVATIVE, UNIQUE, AND/OR CONTROVERSIAL ABOUT AIRPLANE! WHEN IT WAS RELEASED IN 1980?
Experts say the secret to this film’s success is that all the actors play it straight-faced and serious, including several older actors, such as Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen, and Peter Graves, who were known for playing ultra-serious leading man in dramas and melodramas from decades before.
o Film scholar Glenn Erickson wrote: “The beauty of Airplane! is that it's not throwaway humor with actors doing whatever they want. Bridges and Robert Stack (the princes of countless dramas requiring deadpan intensity and terse line readings) keep straight faces despite the provocations of control-tower queen Steven Stucker's Johnny Hinshaw. Peter Graves gives every absurd dialogue line his patented 100% sincerity sales push, even when he's hitting on a nine-year-old boy.” And comedian Patton Oswalt commented: “Seeing the movie for the first time taught me a great lesson: You’ve got to play comedy as if it’s deadly serious. You’ve got to play weirdness as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.”
Additionally, while the film can be rambling, random, silly and over-the-top, it doesn’t stray from telling a complete story and sticking to its narrative; instead of stitching together a bunch of unrelated skits, spoofs and bits, this movie has a fairly cohesive plot that resolves itself by the end – allowing the filmmakers to pack in gags and jokes in between the story.
o Writer Nathan Rabin posited: “I was impressed by the economy of storytelling involved in spoofing a series like the Airport franchise, which seemed to employ the totality of not only Hollywood, but international film over the course of its run. Airplane! introduces a dizzying array of characters, each with subplots that need to be resolved over the course of a lean 87 minutes. Airplane! accomplishes an awful lot, storytelling-wise, in less than 90 minutes, while delivering at least a laugh a minute.”
Also, the film continually lampoons movie clich├ęs, outdated film situations, overdramatic dialogue, and Hollywoodized characters and behaviors.
It wasn’t afraid to be irreverent, crude or offensive: consider the use of profanity, brief nudity, racial stereotyping, and even pedophilia as the focus of satire.
The movie uses virtually every comedic trick in the book, including slapstick, sight gags, corny puns and one-liners, ridiculous asides (the practice of cutting away from the main action to an unrelated visual non-sequitor or bizarre reference), hilarious montages.
It’s ratio of gags per minute was very high – which ensures that, while some jokes will fall flat, others will hit their mark, satisfying most audiences.
o Rabin also wrote: “ZAZ’s legacy extends beyond spoofs; the gentlemen also helped popularize a style of comedy that delights in a wide variety of humor, from smart verbal wit to proudly dumb visual gags, as well as an emphasis on quantity over quality. ZAZ threw as many gags against the wall as possible, and since they were brilliant gagsmiths in the prime of their career, an awful lot stuck.”
Airplane! also uses plentiful pop-culture references, but it doesn’t rely on these references to do much heavy lifting. In other words, while some of these references to pop-culture would have been more relevant in 1980, their inclusions don’t date the movie too badly or befuddle younger viewers who don’t get the jokes.

PREVIOUS FILMS AND TV SHOWS THAT INSPIRED AIRPLANE!
The anarchic, irreverent, madcap humor and punny comedy of the Marks Brothers films
“Zero Hour!” (1957)
“The Crowded Sky” (1960)
“Knute Rockne, All-American” (1940)
“Hellzapoppin” (1941)
“Airport” (1975) and its sequels
Disaster movies like “The Poseidon Adventure”
Skits from television and film comedians like Sid Caesar, Milton Burrell, Jerry Lewis, and Carol Burnett
The films of Mel Brooks, including “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein”
“Bananas” (1971)

FILMS AND OTHER WORKS INSPIRED BY “AIRPLANE!”
Gross-out comedies by the Farrelly brothers, including “There’s Something About Mary,” “Dumb and Dumber,” and “Me, Myself and Irene.”
Contemporary gag-filled comedies like “Epic Movie,” “Date Movie,” the “Scary Movie” films, and African-American facsimiles, such as “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” and” Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.”
Modern prime-time animated series, including “The Simpsons,” “South Park,” and “Family Guy.”

OTHER FILMS BY ONE OR MORE FROM THE COMEDY DIRECTING TEAM OF JIM ABRAHAMS AND BROTHERS DAVID AND JERRY ZUCKER
“Kentucky Fried Movie” (1977)
“Top Secret” (1984)
“Ruthless People” (1986)
The first two “Naked Gun” movies (1988-1991)
“Ghost” (1990)
The “Hot Shots!” movies (1991, 1993)

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