July 02, 2020
The tirelessly joke-packed 1980 film might have dated in some ways but its relentless desire to amuse still makes it an undeniable winner
Airplane! at 40: the best spoof comedy ever made?
Even in the anarchic heyday of the Marx brothers at Paramount Pictures, when they turned out vaudevillian free-for-alls such as Horse Feathers and Duck Soup, or Mel Brooks parodies like Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, audiences had never encountered the sheer volume of gags that hit them in Airplane!, which are so relentless that the bad ones don’t have time to develop an odor. There are puns, pratfalls, provocations, foreground/background dynamics, double entendres, references to film and TV and popular commercials, random acts of silliness and absurdity, and every possible strain of what would later be categorized as a “dad joke”. Even at 40, when a handful of the references and bits have grown whiskers, Airplane! still absolutely kills. Rarely has a film so eager to please been so successful in doing so.
Related: How We Made: Airplane!
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