Critic Reviews



Based on 18 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com
The really great thing about Airplane! is that the jokes undercut your expectations so deftly, right down to the sour air traffic controller called Stack. When it's suggested that he turns on the landing lights on the runway, he snaps back: "That's just what they're expecting us to do."
The distinguishing feature of what many people consider to be the funniest movie ever made is the sheer number of gags.
At a time when throwaway gags seem like a luxury in any film, Airplane! has jokes—hilarious jokes—to spare. It's also clever and confident and furiously energetic, and it has the two most sadly neglected selling points any movie could want right now: it's brief (only eighty-eight minutes), and it looks inexpensive (it cost about three million dollars) without looking cheap. Airplane! is more than a pleasant surprise, in the midst of this dim movie season. As a remedy for the bloated self-importance of too many other current efforts, it's just what the doctor ordered.
Airplane! is what they used to call a laff-riot. Made by team which turned out Kentucky Fried Movie, this spoof of disaster features beats any other film for sheer number of comic gags.
The onslaught of one-liners and sight gags in AIRPLANE! is so relentless that even the most dour viewer is ultimately won over--or exhausted.
The hits outnumber the misses well enough in Airplane!, especially in the first half, when the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team (writer-directors David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker) are layering jokes in the foreground and background. There are parodies of popular favorites like Jaws and Saturday Night Fever, wacky stock footage on back-screen projection, slapstick violence against various religious solicitors, and plenty of silly wordplay.
It is sophomoric, obvious, predictable, corny, and quite often very funny. And the reason it's funny is frequently because it's sophomoric, predictable, corny, etc. Example: Airplane Captain (Peter Graves): Surely you can't be serious. Doctor (Leslie Nielsen): I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley. This sort of humor went out with Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, and knock-knock jokes. That's why it's so funny.
There are also plenty of background sight gags that often go unnoticed on a first viewing.
Slant Magazine
The punchlines come quick and thick, with little foreplay or consideration for anything other than getting a physical reaction from the audience.
It should be disastrous. But psycho ground controllers (Stack and Bridges), laff-a-second pace, and bludgeoning innuendo make this the acceptable face of the locker-room satire.

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