For audiences increasingly tired with the pompous 70s disaster movies that merely recycled former glories, "Airplane!" was the key that unlocked them from the shackles of big budget boredom. The relentless stream of gags, many at the expense of glossy Hollywood dramas, were unflinching in exposing contrived plot devices to maximum comedic effect.
The greatest victims of this film were the "Airport" films. Their key formula was to extract lavish melodrama from incredible moments of peril. Every character had a sad story, and there was always a tug-of-love that would be played both on the ground and upon a stricken airliner. In "Airplane", our lovelorn couple is stewardess Julie Hagerty, and cowardly loser Robert Hays.
Fate forces their relationship onto a plane that's about to fly into comedy mayhem, once it's departed the anarchic airport it's parked in. The writing and directing team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker stock it full of every obvious cliché and annoyance, only to rip them all apart with outrageous sight gags and a knowing script that's furious with silly jokes and clever wordplay.
There are moments of the movie that fall flat, but before you can even register them, there's another gag on the way. It's now a familiar formula, but "Airplane" still retains an edge because the audience is credited with intelligence. Moments of mayhem and chaos are played out with dumbfounding deadpan delivery, often treading a fine line between high drama and ludicrous humour.
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