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"Airplane!" and "Airplane II - The Sequel" on DVD

Shirley You Must be Kidding!

Airplane! set the world on its ear when it came out in 1980. It was rude, crude, juvenile, puerile, and twisted – but it was also one of the funniest movies to have come along in quite a while.

The story is a ripoff of Arthur Hailey’s “Flight Into Danger” in which an ex-pilot is forced to land a commercial airliner after the crew is stricken with food poisoning, but the story is just a framework for writer/directors David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams to attach what has become their trademark comedy.

Robert Hays is Ted Striker, the ex-pilot with a messed up head. Julie Hagerty is Elaine, the stewardess with whom Striker has been involved for years, until his various problems got the best of him. Leslie Nielsen begins his long relationship with the Zuckers/Abrahams team as the doctor who keeps things relatively together on the ill-fated flight.

Also on hand are Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many others in a variety of supporting roles.

You can’t close your eyes for a second during Airplane! or you’ll miss something funny or outrageous, like the tough guy next to Striker during the disco flashback scene – when Striker’s voice over says he was so smitten by the sight of Elaine that he had to ask the guy next to him to “pinch me to see if I’m dreaming.”

The movie doesn’t only spoof disaster films, but many other films (including “From Here to Eternity” and “Saturday Night Fever”), groups, and situations.

It’s so funny I thought my pants would never dry.

The DVD is in widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 TV’s, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Picture and sound quality are fine. Extras include a running commentary from the team of loonies who thought up and made the movie, accompanied by producer Jon Davison.

Airplane II – the Sequel isn’t up to the standard set by the original, but it’s still pretty funny and does a good job of capturing the feel of the original.

Written and directed this time by Ken Finkleman, it picks up many years later – though the characters haven’t aged at all. The story revolves around the Mayflower I, the first passenger space shuttle about to make its maiden voyage to the moon.

Unfortunately, kickbacks and cutbacks have made the ship unsafe, but it’s about to blast off anyway (which is a good thing for us or we’d have no movie).

Hays and Hagerty are back as Ted and Elaine, and Bridges, Graves and several lesser characters from the first film return as well. Newcomers include William Shatner, Raymond Burr, Chad Everett, Sony Bono, and Chuck Connors.

The humour is a little more Jewish than the first film, but that’s okay. Besides, there are plenty of sight gags, bathroom jokes and lots of general lunacy – enough to make you forget that this isn’t a funny as the first film if you haven’t seen it for a while.

The DVD is in widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 TV’s and the picture’s very good. Audio is only Dolby Digital mono, though the sound quality itself is fine, all things considered.

There are no extras of which to speak.


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Updated May 13, 2006