– for not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges
Running Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: July 2, 1980
Blu-Ray Release Date: September 25, 2011 (BestBuy.com)
Plot Summary A masterpiece of off-the-wall comedy, AIRPLANE! tells the story of an ex-fighter pilot who takes control of an airliner when the crew is incapacitated—and skewers airplane disaster flicks, religious zealots, television commercials and everything else in its path along the way. The wildly quotable comedy features an all-star cast including Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and more. (from Paramount Pictures)
It can be a little startling to only ever watch a movie on TV and then see it in its unadulterated form on video. I remember watching the 1980 airport comedy spoof Airplane! on TV several times growing up. It’s not the most wholesome of comedies, but it’s one of the most original spoofs and a groundbreaking one at that. Many have tried to copy the silly tone and visual gags that Airplane! boasted and few have been able to come close. Truthfully, it’s not the funniest movie you’ll ever see, and if you hate silly and goofy comedy, I can tell you right now that this movie is definitely not for you. But until watching the new 2011 Blu-Ray home entertainment release of Airplane!, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen *all* of the film. Sadly, by that, I mean that some content that had been omitted for TV was stuff that I can assure you I’ve never missed having never seen before.
As a whole, Airplane! is one of the most memorable films of the 1980s because of its comedic approach. Better comedies have been made since its debut, but the three-piece directing team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker created something truly unique with this film. Unfortunately, much like most comedy in today’s Hollywood undertakings, sexual humor plays a big part in the jokes you find in the film. Perhaps it’s not as frequent in Airplane! as, say, last year’s Dinner For Schmucks, but it’s still there and when it is, it’s pretty in-your-face. See, in 1980, the movie ratings were much more lax. There was no PG-13 rating, so it was a bit more black and white; we either had PG or R ratings. This all changed in 1984 due to movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom being considered too rough for PG and not rough enough to be R. But if Airplane!were released today, there’s no way it would get a PG rating, but it would have to be edited slightly to obtain a PG-13. Without editing a thing, keeping it the way it is, it just might get slapped with an R rating. The reason I say this is not for language or violence, but for nudity. I was surprised that, during a scene where complete pandemonium breaks out on the plane, we see the close-up of a topless woman’s chest run in front of the camera, stop for a second right in the middle of the screen and then run off screen. Another sequence shows a pilot visiting a rack of adult magazines in airport with one cover showing topless nudity and another one nearly showing as much. Finally, a few visual gags that would probably pass in a PG-13 film without the blink of an eye involve a woman refilling the air in an inflatable autopilot doll (who’s made to look like a man) where the tube is at its crotch (which looks like she’s performing oral sex on it). Another gag shows the “non-smoking” logo get illuminated for passengers and then another right below it displays the cartoonish graphic of a couple having sex with an “X” over it (like the non-smoking sign). Some may consider all of these rather mild, and maybe they are considering some of the stuff PG-13 films get away with these days, but for a film bearing a “PG” rating that parents might look at and mistake for a family-friendly film, they’re guaranteed to get more than they bargained for.Despite the content flaws (which does include some profanity, but not persistent usage), the film has always been a fun one to check out when it’s been on TV. It stars a few actors who were predominantly known for their serious roles, like Leslie Nielsen and Peter Graves, and their dry delivery of some really ridiculous material is quite amusing. Robert Hays, who I don’t believe I’ve ever seen in anything else, and Julie Hagerty (who I later saw in What About Bob?) are great at playing their characters straight and convincingly. You have to be a strong actor to pull off this kind of material and they do a fantastic job at it. Nielsen, Graves, Robert Stack and Lloyd Bridges make up an excellent supporting cast and they all do a really great job mixing comedy with drama without being campy or over-the-top in what is otherwise an over-the-top movie. It’s their cool and collected reactions to the ridiculousness around them that makes this such a fun film. And c’mon, who can forget exchanges like “Surely, you can’t be serious?” “I am serious… and don’t call me ‘Shirley'” or the gag with the pilots and co-pilots’ last names?
In the end, it’s the content that drags the movie down for me. On the basis of some pretty iffy and crude gags, I can’t recommend this one. The picture on the Blu-Ray release looks pretty good considering the movie is 31 years old, but I don’t feel as though the HD presentation really improves on the movie as much as it does for some. Some really dated films have looked fantastic in Blu-Ray (pretty much any of the 80s Star Trek films, for example), but Airplane!looks surprisingly grainy at times, while other times, the picture is pretty clear, crisp and colorful. There are minimal special features on this release too, so if you are hoping for some extraordinary extras, you won’t find anything new here. Apparently, one of the movie’s DVD releases in 2005 offered a special feature called “Long Haul Version” and that is included here as the only extra besides a feature audio commentary track from the directors. (Oh, side note: The Blu-Ray disc’s menu is made up to look like the in-flight instructional card and it has “S–t” written on it as well as an animated re-enactment of the above-mentioned autopilot inflating scene).
All in all, Airplane! is a classic comedy film, but one that crosses the proverbial line a few too many times to really be recommendable (A lot of the comedy gets pretty bold when it comes to ripping on all kinds of stereotypes – from racial to religious. There’s a very good chance something in it will offend someone). Just don’t let that PG rating fool ya, Airplane! is a funny film, but isn’t one for the whole family. – John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/24/11)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
As I said above, Airplane!‘s Blu-Ray release is pretty thin on extras. It’s being given a Best Buy exclusive release and it’s virtually a high definition transfer with the bonus features you’d find on the DVD release; there doesn’t appear to be anything new here. However, the main extra, the “Long Haul Version” is the one fans would want to check out. Also, the high-definition quality is decent, but not spectacular. However, it does bring out detail you’ve probably never previously noticed in the movie before. This is good and bad; in the scene where Striker dances in the bar, you can very obviously see the piano wires holding him up so he can dance off his feet. I’m not sure if it’s noticeable in other releases, but it was clear as day on this one.
Long Haul Version (1:27:42) – With this selected, you can watch the film with interactive pop-up features that causes a “TA” logo to show up on the screen at random times. When you select it, it takes you to random bonus material — from interviews with the cast telling stories about the filming process and mistakes in the film (like visible crew in a shot) to the directors discussing what it was like to make the movie. The highlights include hearing from a present-day Bob Hays as he talks about his role as Ted and fun stories on the set and tricks of how things were filmed. The directors and actors show scenes from the finished film and point out visible errors or show behind-the-scenes footage or photos of some of the iconic scenes. The occasional deleted scene in a fun addition to this featurette, too. It’s also fascinating to hear actor Peter Graves reflect on filming his role as Captain Over and how risky the film was for him to do (especially given some of the lines he had to deliver). It’s also funny to hear from little Joey, who’s all grown up now, and how people still tease him about some of Graves’ dialog toward him in the film in the iconic cockpit meeting of the two. All in all, this is a great featurette, I just wish all the extras were visible separately from the film.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/24/11)
Parental Guide: Quick Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: We hear two people arguing over a loud speaker about loading zone announcements. It then stops and when we hear it again, the woman is telling the other announcer, a man, that she will not have an abortion. He then insists it’s safe; Captain Over approaches a magazine rack that displays magazines under the description of “Whacking Material.” The magazines displayed are mostly obscured, but the small image of a topless woman is briefly visible on one of the covers and another shows partial female nudity and is titled “Dominant Females.” The captain then picks up a magazine called “Modern Sperm” and briefly pages through it; An old woman sitting next to Ted comments on Elaine being lovely and having “supple, pouting breasts;” Elaine’s stewardess blouse is translucent and you can see her bra through it; Two children are dressed and act like older business travelers. The boy dressed as a man brings the girl a cup of coffee. He asks if she’d like cream and she says, “No, I take it black… just like my men;” We see Elaine and Ted kissing passionately while lying on a beach in bathing suits during a flashback; Captain Over asks little Joey if he’s ever seen a grown man naked, and then asks if he has ever hung around a gym; While Elaine and Ted are reminiscing about their past love affair, she adds that she remembers “How I used to sit on your face and wriggle;” As the plane careens out of control, the camera focuses on a plate of jello shaking, then a pair of clothed breasts shaking; The no-smoking sign then illuminates, and then a graphic of a silhouette of a couple having sex with an X through it (basically a no-sex sign); We see the doctor examining a woman with her legs up in stirrups (no nudity, it’s just a completely random gag); Elaine activates the automatic pilot, which is an inflatable man. Later he deflates so she has to reinflate him. She pulls a tube out of the belt of the inflatable man and blows into it. The expression-less face on the inflatable man turns into a wide-eyed smile as the visual gag simulates oral sex. The doc walks in as she’s doing this and awkwardly exits; In the next shot we see both Elaine and the inflatable autopilot smoking; During some pandemonium on the plane, a topless woman briefly walks in front of the screen; After the autopilot is disengaged, it floats around the cockpit and we see it wrapped around Elaine from behind with its hands over her chest; We see Captain Over’s wife in bed in a nightgown that shows some cleavage. When she turns the light on, we see there’s a live horse in bed with her. She then tells the horse to let himself out the back door; Over’s wife wears a dress showing cleavage and Johnny looks right at her bosom and complains about how awful the outfit clashes (instead of commenting on her figure)
Vulgarity/Language: 1 “S” word written on the Blu-Ray menu; In the movie — 5 “S” words; 3 “d*mn,” 1 “g*dd*mn,” 1 “a” word, 1 “p*sser,” 5 “h*ll,” 1 “cr*p,” 2 “a**h*le,” 1 “b*stard”
Alcohol/Drugs: We see people drinking in a bar in a flashback; A man says “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking” as he takes a swig from a flask; He later says he picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue and we see him acting high after he does so; A man takes a swig of whiskey and offers it to an old woman who saw him do it. She replies “Certainly not!” but then sniffs some cocaine off a hand mirror; A man says “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines!” and then pops a few pills in his mouth
Blood/Gore: We see a fake-looking beating heart sitting on a man’s desk. We then see it bouncing across his desktop; The old woman sitting next to Ted hangs herself after listening to his dull story and we see her feet dangling next to his head; A man has some bloody scrapes on his face after being mauled by a dog
Violence: These are all played for comedy: A man accidentally misdirects a plane and it crashes through a building window; A man punches a persistent religious follower trying to give a flower for a donation; We see some stock war dogfight footage as Striker recalls war memories; Two girl scouts get into a brutal violent bar fight after cheating in a card game; A man is stabbed in the back at a bar; Later, as Elaine and Ted slow dance we see one of the girl scouts go flying by them and land on the ground; The old woman sitting next to Ted hangs herself due to his dull story and we see her feet dangling next to him; We see more exploding airplane flashbacks; In a flashback we see Ted painting a picture of a soldier with his leg tucked behind his head and holding a baby upside down while standing in front of an explosion; A stewardess hits a bunch of passengers in the head with a guitar as she carries it down the aisle; A woman playing a guitar accidentally knocks a sick girl’s IV line out of her arm and her face puckers up; In a flashback, a tribal man punches Ted in the face; A Japanese soldier sitting next to Ted stabs himself in the stomach after listening to Ted’s stories; When people panic on the plane, we see them tearing things up, two people fencing, and a man and nun struggling; A dog attacks a man viciously; We see an Indian man douse himself in gasoline after having to listen to Ted’s stories. When Ted is called away, he blows out a match he had lit, but accidentally causes an explosion from the smoldering match; We see a car driving to a video sceen behind it and the captain driving it hits a man on a bike, knocking him onto the road; Several people shake and slap a hysterical woman. We then see a line of people holding various weapons near the back of the line, waiting to help snap the woman out of her hysterics; We see a captain walking through an airport being approached by various charities and engaging in various self-defense techniques against them as he encounters them; Captain Kramer throws a cigarette out the window and it explodes; Ted envisions more planes crashing; We see the passengers are watching a movie with a big plane crash on it; We see the plane come in for a rough landing and the landing gear break off as it touches down; We hear a crash after an ambulance pulls away; During the film, we hear of a lot of the passengers getting sick from what they ate on the flight and some pass out (one pukes into a bag, but we don’t see any of it, while we do see Captain Over suddenly drool/vomit briefly)