Characters: Ted Striker (Robert Hays), Elaine (Julie Hagerty) – the love interest, Capt. Oveur (Peter Graves), Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (as himself in disguise).
No matter how hard you try not to laugh at the endless supply of corny jokes and innuendos, you won’t succeed! Airplane is the best pun-based movie ever made! It laid the groundwork for future movies by sparking an interest, and creating a demand in moviegoers for more comedic movie knockoffs. The new demand for spoof-based movies led to the making of movies like: Hot Shots, Scary Movie, Shrek, etc. Airplane is truly a comedic classic poking fun at movies like Airport, Saturday Night Fever, Top Gun and itself. It derives its humour from making fun of the emotionally charged disaster-genre that had pervaded the movies in the 1970’s.
We quickly discover that this movie is a comedy in the opening scene, which takes place in the LA Airport. The filmmakers achieve the introduction to the comedic farces that are present for the remainder of the movie through the hilarious announcements over the intercom and through the funny characters that are scattered about the airport. It is in the airport that we become familiarized with the two leading characters: Ted Striker (Robert Hays) and Elaine (Julie Hagerty). We find out that Striker was once a fighter pilot in the war who had developed an extreme case of PTSD by losing most of his squadron in battle. Elaine, who had stuck by his side for a long time after his incident in the war, had finally left him because she could no longer tolerate listening to his repetitive war flashbacks. After Elaine told Striker that it was over, he decided to face his fears and board the plane that Elaine worked on as a flight attendant in hopes of winning her back.
The seriousness of PTSD that is portrayed in most dramas is made fun of relentlessly throughout this movie. On board the plane, Striker continues to relive the tragic tales of his past with other passengers on his flight, which leads them to either commit or attempt suicide via highly excessive measures. For example, one passenger tries to light himself on fire, and a nun hangs herself from the ceiling of the plane above her seat!
Upon choosing to eat the fish dinner, the crew of the plane and all the passengers who also ate the fish, are taken ill with food poisoning. Dr. Rumack (Leslie Neilson), the doctor onboard (but don’t call him Shirley!), makes the diagnosis of food poisoning. Once the crew has become violently ill, as predicted by Dr. Rumack, Striker must finally confront his fears and try to land the plane. The suspense, raw emotions and overall drama that is usually portrayed in movies depicting a potential plane crash, is mocked to the extreme through the use of: a blow up autopilot, Striker pouring with sweat (literally), countless sexual innuendos, and a myriad of many more farces!
Of course, as is usual in the case of dramas depicting this type of situation, Striker becomes the hero and gets the girl by courageously landing the plane!
I recommend that a viewer watch this movie more than once! Every time you watch it you are sure to find a gag that you missed before which makes it funnier and funnier each time you see it!!!