Airplane!: A Masterclass in Visual Comedy

Remember when movies were allowed to just get completely ridiculous? Back when directors could pitch a movie in which a flight attendant gives a blow job to an inflatable pilot without getting kicked out of the room? I remember.

Airplane! is a movie that doesn’t worry too much about telling a story. It’s focused entirely on one thing: making the audience laugh. And it will employ any trick that it wants to do it. Written dialogue or a visual gag, this movie is willing to pull any trick to get a laugh out of you.

And god damn, is it great! It can even make dad jokes funny! If you don’t laugh at least once, then you either have shit taste or no soul. Probably both.

Cleverly, though, they don’t just bombard the audience with jokes. There is a story buried beneath all the humor, with complete character arcs and everything! Granted, it isn’t the most complex story of all time. It ultimately boils down to ‘man must conquer his fear and land a plane’. It’s so simple, in fact, that it’s kind of easy to forget that it’s even a thing!

This movie never stops. Every single scene, practically every single second, there’s a joke of some kind. Maybe the characters will say something completely stupid, such as:

“Surely you can’t be serious!”
“I am. And don’t call me Surely.”

Or maybe a lady will freak out and everyone will get in line to beat some sense back into her with boxing gloves, a crowbar, or a straight-up gun. Or the editors will just go nuts with a bluescreen and put some footage there that doesn’t at all align with what the characters are doing or saying.

All while the actors keep a completely straight face.

Seriously, these guys are unbelievable! I can only imagine the sheer number of outtakes they must have had when filming was finally done! But the fact that the actors could keep a straight face at all is incredible! What kind of willpower do you need to have to do that?

Now, it isn’t a perfect comedy, nor a perfect film. As is the case with a lot of comedies, plenty of the jokes don’t land. The cinematography is pretty flat, relying on the visual comedy to make up for it. They aren’t aggregious issues; the majority of the jokes are pretty solid and iconic and the visual gags do effectively take your mind off of the lacking camerawork.

I also can’t really go into much detail because of the film’s very nature. It isn’t focused on delivering a compelling narrative or visual experience. It’s a fun, dumb movie that just wants to make you laugh. Which doesn’t leave me much to talk about.

So… I guess I’ll wrap it up now.

If you’re in need of a hearty laugh (and given the current times, you probably do), check this movie out. Airplane! is one of those precious comedies that stands the test of time. You can always get a good laugh watching this one.

And Christ almighty, I need that these days.

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