Saturday, April 11, 2015

Don't call him Shirley!

Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Julie Hagerty, Robert Hays, Robert Stack, Peter Graves
Released: July 2, 1980

This is a movie I've seen in bits and pieces when it was on TV, but had never watched it in its entirety until just now. The only scene I can even recall from when I did watch a little bit of it was the Saturday Night Fever dance spoof scene and I only remember it because my brother tried to emulate the main guy when he was doing that move where he's squatting on the floor with his arms crossed and kicking his legs out. Of course this dance move is pretty much impossible without the use of your arms and so my brother could never do it. 

This is one of the most famous spoof movies out there, but because this movie came out before my time, I didn't know any of the movies that were being spoofed aside from the aforementioned Saturday Night Fever scene. I'm sure there are other movies spoofed that I would probably know, but just didn't realize. The jokes/gags are funny though some of them seem really antiquated (there's a scene right before the plane takes off and a guy right outside the pilot's window puts this contraption on the windowpane (and I should note that the window was open...which obviously you can't do on a real plane because that would be very bad!) At first I thought he was measuring the window, but then the pilot gives him what looks to be a credit card and the guy swipes it though the device. I had no idea what it was and figured it must be something of the time) or they were a bit racist (like the "translation" given for the two black guys speaking "jive" - although it was funny when that little old white lady said she could translate jive) or they were just a little bit dark (three passengers committed suicide because they couldn't stand listening to the main character's story of how he met the love of his life...I don't really get how that was suppose to be funny! It's not like the stories were that tedious!)

Ex-fighter-pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays) is on Trans American Flight 209 from L.A. to Chicago. His ex-girlfriend, Elaine (Julie Hagerty), who he still has feelings for, is a flight attendant (or a stewardess as they were called in those days) on that flight. As we hear from the (apparently awful and tedious) stories that Striker told some of the passengers, they met during the war and fell in love. I was really confused what era this movie was set because they made it seem like he was in World War II, but then he meets Elaine while dancing to "Stayin' Alive" by the BeeGees and obviously they didn't have '70s disco music back then! Then I realized that it must be part of the joke.

The pilot was called Captain Oveur so he would say, "Captain Oveur, over" and the first officer was named Roger so everytime the Captain would say something to the air traffic control tower and end it with "Roger!", his co-pilot would say, "Huh?" When a young boy visits the cockpit, he outs the First Officer as being basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar which he repeatedly denies even though the boy finds a basketball on the floor and we later see "Roger" wearing basketball shorts and knee pads and sneakers. 

I noticed that the overhead compartments where the luggage is stored were just shelves - there were no actual compartments that you could open and close to store your belongings. I thought that was really weird because if there's even a little bit of turbulence, all that luggage is going to come spilling out and hurt I don't know if this was a real thing back in then and people who designed planes were really stupid or if this was going to be a joke that was going to pay off later. We do see the plane go in a nosedive, but there was only two pieces of luggage that fell! So maybe that was the joke? I don't know; I didn't get that. But passengers did get hit in the head with an object when a flight attendant asks the nun if she can borrow her guitar to sing to the sick girl on the gurney and when she takes it, she whacks everyone in the head when she brings it down the aisle. 

Leslie Nielsen plays an on-flight doctor ("Surely you can do something doctor"; "Don't call me Shirley!") and after everybody who ate the fish for dinner gets food poisoning, he tells another flight attendant that they need to get everybody to a hospital and when she replies with, "Hospital? What is it?" (meaning what was wrong) and he replies with, "It's that big building where all the sick people go." They had a lot of jokes like that one and by the third one, it wasn't that funny anymore! The ongoing joke that worked better was when the the supervisor at the air traffic control tower (played by Lloyd Bridges) keeps exclaiming things like, "I picked a hell of a week to quit smoking!" or "I picked a hell of a week to quit drinking!" There was about four or five of those ongoing jokes. 

I don't know what the in-flight movie was, but it showed a plane crashing and bursting into flames! 

As I mentioned earlier, everyone on the plane who had fish for dinner gets food poising and passes out (although by the time they crash land, most every one is awake!) and this includes the captain, first officer, and the flight engineer and their passed out bodies are dragged through the aisle to the back of the plane in front of all the passengers. And even though the only choices were fish or chicken, the doctor states that he had the lasagna for dinner! 

Because they have no pilot, Elaine switches on the "auto-pilot" which is an inflatable pilot named Otto. But Otto isn't equipped to land the plane (you think!) and everyone is extremely sick and must be taken to a hospital as soon as possible. Over the intercom, Elaine asks a question that NO passenger on a plane ever wants to hear: "Is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?" This results in a huge panic scene where the passengers are fighting with each other and there's even a sword fight between two of them. Not only were there swords aboard this flight, but also a gun and gasoline and matches...yeah....

Striker is the only one who is equipped to land the plane (even though he has a fear of flying from being traumatized by an event in the war where he lost six (actually seven according to Elaine!) men). He is also one of the very few who didn't eat the fish. It's a little touch and go, but he manages to land, er, crash land the plane! 

Something I like to do before watching a movie is look through its IMDb page and see if there are any character actors that I might recognize. Honestly, the only person I knew from this movie was Leslie Nielsen and I knew Lloyd Bridges is the father of Beau and Jeff, but I wouldn't have known that it was him if I didn't know if he was in it. I did see a name I recognized: Jonathan Banks. I kept my eye out on him, but I never did see him in the movie. This is probably because this movie came out over 30 years ago and I'm familiar with him looking like Mike Ehrmantraut. He's also in only one scene as an air traffic controller. Now, if we remember our Breaking Bad lore, Jane's dad was also an air traffic controller and stupidly goes to work after his daughter is found dead and causes a mid-air collision because his mind is elsewhere. As for Airplane!, the movie never gets that dire! It's a comedy, after all!

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