While it's still being featured in some movies every once in a while, it appears that movies based on satire have lost some of its luster over time. For whatever reason, they just don't seem to be as funny as they used to be. Movies like this have to be hard to make and maybe that can explain the lack of quality (and popularity) that we see from many of the today's films from this genre. The same can't be said for a movie like Airplane!, which may be considered innovative and one of the best of this genre.
Ted Striker (Robert Hays) is taxi driver who boards a plane on a whim to win back the love of his life Elaine (Julie Hagerty), despite being afraid of flying. His fear of flying comes from his days as a combat pilot and some of the traumatic events that occurred in his life during that time in the air. While trying his best to win her back, we are also introduced to plenty of other people during the course of this flight and a huge problem that may make all of his efforts obsolete.
Airplane! doesn't waste any time getting into the comedy. The jokes are thrown out right from the start and never let up. Most of what goes on is crazy and easily hilarious. The characters, the situations that they're in and much of the time, the dialog alone make for good laughs. It succeeds because it's a short film that stuffs so much into it and still manages to not to come of as bloated or forced.
Most of the early focus of Airplane! is on Ted Striker and his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Elaine. We witness the early points of their relationship through flashbacks of how they met and some other pivotal parts of their time together. Along with that, we eventually get to see many of the other characters as we go around learning about the various things happening on this plane. There are plenty of people here and they all bring something different to the table.
You have the "jive" talking black dudes, kids having adult conversations, people with drinking habits and much more. We are also shown cameos from a few celebrities of that time and actors who weren't known for being in comedies that are placed important roles. By using so many actors who were known for their dramatic roles (including Leslie Nielsen back then), it put a weird yet cool spin on things. Airplane! had most of the significant actors stay in character while everything else is going haywire. This approach probably made everything even better, because it basically allows all of the film's hijinks to take center stage and look more exaggerated.
The craziest part about this movie may not even be the movie itself. After watching what goes on, I was wondering how this was rated PG. Airplane! had quite a few things in it that aren't what you would call "kid friendly." I did some digging and I found out that the PG-13 rating wasn't around when this movie was released in 1980 and that explains its rating. If this were released after 1984 (the arrival of the PG-13 rating), it would have received a PG-13 rating at the very least and it may have even gotten hit with an R rating. Either way, the PG rating it received is a bit misleading.
I don't know if we'll see any more movies from this genre as good as Airplane! ever again. It's been difficult to replicate in recent years and I kind of expect it to stay that way. Even if they never completely duplicate the quality of films like this, there are plenty of older ones that came after it that we can still watch and enjoy. I know Hollywood won't quit trying to make movies like this and that can be a good thing in my opinion, since it just gives the audience more to watch. I just hope the ones that they make are legitimately funny.
Film Length: 87 minutes
Release Date: July 2, 1980
Distributor: Paramount Pictures