"I am serious... and don't call me Shirley."
Spoof movies, nowadays, have a major tendency to not be very funny. Having grown up through the Scary Movie (2000) era, I cannot honestly say that I have seen a funny spoof movie made in my lifetime. Maybe I am trying too hard to not laugh at some of the nonsense that comes with spoofs. There is a chance that I respect the material being mocked to the point that I cannot laugh. I don't know, but I do not like spoof movies.
There needs to be an exception to every general statement made. If I say I do not like spoof movies, then I have to admit that I kinda sorta enjoyed Airplane! at one point in my life. I remember seeing the movie for the first time when I was 13 years old. There was not a person on the planet who could have successfully convinced me that it was not the funniest movie in the history of the world. I am older now, and for the sake of the big list I decided to give Airplane! a re-watch for the first time in almost 10 years. Sadly, it just isn't very funny anymore.
The movie is a grab bag of other people's stories and references. It is an obvious parody of the hit movie Airport (1970), but what I did not realize is that it also borrows heavily from two other movies called Airport 1975 (1974) and Zero Hour! (1957). In fact, the entire food poisoning storyline is lifted from Zero Hour!. I think this may have led to the movie becoming a tad dated. There are several pop culture references that people my age and younger are not going to understand. With the level of ridiculousness in tact, it is never difficult to know when something is being made fun of - but it does sometimes become difficult to figure out WHAT is being made fun of.
Because I am a nerd, I decided to look up and watch Airport 1975 and Zero Hour!. These are both overly dramatic movies that take place on airplanes. They are also not very good. That could be another problem. Airplane! is spoofing two movies that do a fine job at spoofing themselves. It is easy to see that the writers had very little respect for what they were making fun of, and that makes the film seem childish in some spots.
If you are familiar with the source material then you know that Airplane! takes place on an airplane filled with interesting characters. The passengers and pilots were served a helping of poisoned fish and everyone on the plane ends up severely ill. This means there is no pilot to fly the plane. A lowly and emotionally scarred former Air Force pilot with a hilarious "drinking problem" is the only hope for the passengers. Will he be able to save the day? I mean, it is a comedy...
Leslie Nielsen, in a role that changed the course of his career, plays Dr. Rumack. He is a medical doctor who is asked to assist with the sick passengers. His lines are the funniest in the movie. He seems to not have any grasp on reality and really enforces the surrealist comedy that made Airplane! famous. Some of his lines are still very funny. "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley!" has to be one of the most quoted lines in the history of comedy. My favorite line - "we've got to get these people to a hospital! A hospital, what is it!? Its a big building with lost of patients". It makes me laugh every single time.
But really, that is about the extent of the movie's funny parts. Maybe it is because spoof movies have become unbearable at this point in cinematic history. It could be because the jokes and references are dated. It could even be because I watched the movie a million times as a child. I am sorry to say that nostalgia wanted me to give Airplane! an A grade. But it earned every letter of the grade that I gave it...