Airplane! is a movie that I can watch time and time again and find it funny each viewing. Simply put, it is a spoof of the domestic American air travel experience. It’s funny to note how the jokes hit on the realities of air travel, despite the fact the movie was made almost two decades before 9/11 permanently altered air travel. For instance, the spoof of airport gate security resembles the true state of modern TSA security that in the 1980s was only a pipe dream. However, the days of smoking on airplanes are long gone, so the smoking ticket gag loses some meaning looking back from a modern perspective. I hate to explain jokes, because in the process they inevitably stop being funny, but I can say that anyone who has been on an airplane can identify with them. No aspect of typical airport and airline operations go without a cruel mockery being made of them.
In the mix, there is a rekindling of love between Ted, a post traumatic stress disorder affected war veteran and Elaine, an airline flight attendant. In fact, they meet in a nightclub during what is only ever ominously referred to as “The War,” and quickly fall head over heels in love. Yet, their relationship crumbles almost as quickly as it was built up after a failed air mission where Ted saw himself as responsible for the deaths of the rest of his squadron. They meet again when Ted finds out which flight Elaine is working on a last ditch effort to save their relationship. Ted manages to get a ticket at the last minute and the premise for the relatively short movie is set.
A rancid in-flight meal of fish which takes out the entire pilot crew sets the stage for the rest of the movie to occur. The kind and soothing manner of flight attendants is parodied when they are looking for someone to fly a plane. Eventually, it becomes clear the only person with any sort of flight experience is the PTSD plagued Ted, who had just barely gotten over his fear of being in an airplane at all, never mind the cockpit. He eventually gets over his fear of flying and takes over the controls from an inflatable autopilot (literally an inflatable balloon). He eventually lands the plane with the help of Kramer (who just so happens to have been his Captain during the ominous “War”) and in true cinematic bravado manages to get back with Elaine.
Ultimately, this is a movie that you watch when you’ve had a long week and just want to kick back and relax. There’s not a whole lot of deeper meaning and substance to this movie but sometimes that isn’t what viewers are looking for. Most people I’ve talked to at least are familiar with it (probably because it’s been out so long) and if nothing else, watch it just because you’ll be able to make fun of it with your friends.