Wacky comedy, sans the Zucker brothers.
Often voted one of the ten best comedies of all time, the original Airplane! is a classic comedy spoof on the disaster films of the 1970s. Almost everyone over the age of 25 can quote at least one line from this zany film. In 1982, the powers that be decided to produce a sequel without the help of original creators Jerry and David Zucker. Holdovers included Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges and Peter Graves in a story written and directed by Ken Finklemen. Paramount has released Airplane! along with this second film, Airplane II: The Sequel, on DVD. So is the second trip with it?
Facts of the Case
After the events of the first Airplane, it's a wonder that Ted Striker (Hays) would ever board a plane again. But this time around it's no ordinary plane ride. This is a lunar shuttle, and it's going straight to the moon! The passengers on board are all as wacky as the crew, led by the bubble-headed Captain Oveur (Graves) and spaced-out stewardess Elaine (Hagerty). In mid-air, disaster strikes with a computer malfunction (straight out of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey) AND a mad bomber on board! It's up to Ted Striker to save the day once more! The usual cast of nut balls are called in, including Lloyd Bridges reprising his role as McCroskey ("I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing chemical glue!"), William Shatner (Mr. Star Trek) as Murdock, Steven Stucker as Jacobs ("JUST kidding!") and Sonny Bono as the mad bomber (after dating Cher, wouldn't you be too?). It all adds up to antics so insane that you'll need two viewings to catch them all! (Oh wait, I'm thinking of the original).
Will Striker save the day? Can the mad bomber be stopped? And what will happen when the passengers find out the plane is completely out of coffee?!?!
The original Airplane! was such a joke-filled giggle fest that it was hard to catch your breath before another gag was shot off. With repeat viewings, the original Airplane! becomes funnier and funnier. Airplane II: The Sequel is certainly no bomb (ha-ha), but it's certainly not up to the standards of the original. True, there are very funny moments along the way (such as when one character tells another that a frightened man has turned to jell-o, then cut to a jell-o mold dressed up in a captain's uniform). The direction is well done, being more than adequate. Sadly, there is still something that feels missing without the Zucker brothers involvement.
There are some great performances in this film. Peter Graves gives such a funny spin on Captain Oveur that he almost steals the show. When a small boy and his dog are brought up the cockpit to see the sights and Captain Oveur asks him if he likes it when "Scraps holds on to his leg and rubs up and down?," you can't help but blurt out some laughter.
Lloyd Bridges shows why he continued to prosper in a second-wind career as a comedy star in such films as Hot Shots! and Mafia!. He has such wonderful deadpan delivery that it was a shame to lose him in the prime of his spoof career. His foil, Steven Stucker, reprises his role and the gay tower worker, Jacobs (or so we'd assume, as he loves to go to sales at J.C. Penny's and is a big fan of broaches). Long before the character of Jack on "Will and Grace," there was this hysterically funny portrayal of flamboyancy at its loony best.
Finally, David Leisure (of "Empty Nest" fame) reprises his role as a religious zealot with a bald head and a spring coil of hair coming off his scalp (take a guess what religion he is). He doesn't have a big part, but it's always fun to see him on screen again passing out flowers and asking for donations from indifferent airline passengers.
The storyline is decent, basically a rehash of the original told with a few tweaks and twists. The plane has troubles, Striker must save the day (and his love for Elaine), wackiness ensues. However, with a movie like this, you're not watching it for the plot. You're waiting to see how many jokes they can cram into the 84 minutes you'll be watching it.
The DVD is a nice transfer by Paramount (1.85:1 anamorphic). It's slightly below par of the original Airplane! DVD Paramount has also released. It contains little grain and no digital artifacting from what I could spot. The picture had a few areas where colors tended to look a tad faded, but these were few and far between (and I know you're probably thinking "Hey, Patrick, those are the same words you use for all your DVD reviews." Well, YOU try coming up with new and exciting words for the same transfer and troubles and I'll pass this reviewing torch on to you). Audio is a nice mix of Dolby Digital Mono and sounds fine (for being mono…remember, this was 1982). Nothing great, but nothing terrible. Music and effects sounded well done with dialogue being very audible. There were a few spots where a slight hiss was detected, but otherwise a very clear track.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Although Airplane II: The Sequel does have many laughs throughout, lots of jokes fall flat on their face. One problem is that many of the gags are variations on gags from the first film. How many times can you have someone ask Captain Oveur if they can check the throttle and Oveur responds "No, why don't you check it?" A funny joke once, but highly stale after three uses. This is a consistency all through the film. Take one joke from Airplane!, spice it up a slightly different way, serve luke warm.
William Shatner gives a very over the top performance as Murdock, and this time his overacting gets the better of him. He seems to be doing one of his "Priceline.com" commercials. He isn't very funny, and his character is written very weakly (if you can call characters in this sub-genre of comedy "well written"). He generally shows up at the end of the film, and his presence starts to sink what is left of the movie. Inspired casting, but overall it doesn't work.
Paramount is slapped on the wrist with a switch from a weeping willow for not putting one extra on this disc. At LEAST we got a commentary track on the original Airplane! DVD (even though purists know there could have been a lot more for that disc). This disc doesn't even contain a theatrical trailer. What gives, Paramount? Was it that hard to just root around and slap on a full frame trailer? Geez…talk about laziness (which reminds me, I need to go empty my bedpan underneath my chair).
Airplane II: The Sequel is a funny movie. It doesn't have as many yucks and guffaws as the original, but it can hold it's own as a fairly good comedy (especially compared to some of the comedies they make today). For the price ($24.99-$29.99) you aren't really getting anything besides the movie, so buyer beware. Make your decision based on if you like the film or not, because there won't be anything else to see on this disc besides that.
The jury has a split vote, but is tending to lean on the side of guilty…well, maybe innocent…no, guilty…well, maybe…
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