5 March 2010 | AlsExGal
A courageous effort in its time
This film could have derailed the careers of everyone involved. For example, people under 40 may not even know that until this movie, Leslie Nielsen was strictly a serious actor in dramas both on TV and in film. Many may watch 1973's"Poseidon Adventure" for the first time today and keep waiting for Nielson - as the captain of the doomed ship - to get up from the dining room table wearing just his heart-covered underwear below the waist, or for him to make that first clueless remark. He never does. But from this film onward, he was strictly a comic actor and a good one. Quite a sharp turn for age 55.
Just think how tight a line you have to walk with such silliness in order to be brilliant versus inane. What could have easily been the first winner of the Razzie Worst Picture award instead was the first major film of its genre and over the last 30 years has inspired some creative as well as mundane imitators. To understand the film's success you have to look at the time in which it was made - late 70's early 80's. The sarcasm of the post-Watergate era in which everything is fair game for ridicule started on TV with Saturday Night Live, and first appeared on the big screen with "Kentucky Fried Movie", but this was the first and best big-budget attempt at such material.
In addition to being the beginning of an era, it is sadly the end of one - one in which we all didn't take ourselves quite so seriously. There is no way today that you could make a movie where people are "speaking jive" as though it were a foreign language or where an Air Israel plane is shown complete with kosher beard. There would be an outcry followed by Congressional hearings. In 1980, there was still a perspective that making fun of certain perceptions and admitting that they are there is a better approach to bringing us all together than just ignoring them and sweeping them under the rug. There's yet another good approach to bringing people together - laughs, of which this film is full.
Just a word of caution - if you've never seen any of the serious airplane disaster movies that preceded this one such as the Airport movies of the 1970's or the 1950's film "High and the Mighty", this film will ruin them for you. They all become comedies. Thus you might want to see them before you see Airplane - or if you want to laugh some more, see Airplane first.