Airplane! (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Three decades ago, there was a genre of comedy that took the world by storm. It was wacky and it was fun and it took a nostalgic touch and put a comic spin on it. It was the “parody film” and it was the genre Mel Brooks was the master of in the seventies. In the eighties, another breed of parody film came from three of the founders of the Kentucky Fried Theatre, whose film “Kentucky Fried Movie” was a surprise hit amongst moviegoers at the tail end of the seventies. At the beginning of the new decade, an idea they had for many years became a reality, it became another surprise hit, and it became “Airplane!”

Ted (Robert Hays) and Elaine (Julie Hagerty) are in the midst of ending their relationship. He promises her that things will be different, but Elaine has heard it all before and can’t deal with it anymore. She wants to go on with her life as a stewardess. Ted wants to give the relationship another try and would do anything to patch it up, including surprising her on her next flight unaware that on this particular flight, a small problem will affect the passengers and crew and their only hope for survival is the very person with flight experience that isn’t part of the crew. The person who didn’t fall for the small problem but has a drinking problem of his own. The person is Ted and thus continues the wacky flight of Trans American Airlines.

After more than thirty years after its release, this viewer expected the laughs to come once in a while and with memories that it was good at the time but not sure if I could say the same now. With that being said, I can honestly say that it is still a funny movie and that many of the puns in this movie still make me howl a little more than some of the recent fare that passes for comedy. The fun is quick and very spontaneously making fun of the Airport/Disaster movies of the seventies. There are at least five scenes in this movie that make me laugh more than ever. It’s interesting that this film was loosely based on an older movie with the same idea but a serious movie.

The film certainly paved the way for more spoofs to come, mostly from the same guys who made this movie. Today is no time for the parody film to come back, but it is amusing to look back and see that it was funny, it still is funny and maybe sometime in the future (not too near) filmmaking can go back to a fresh kind of film the way “Airplane!” did in the eighties.

Video: How does it look?

“Airplane!” might be over thirty years old, but I’ve always found it to look very nice on disc. This new edition brings the film into the HD arena and the 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer looks a bit improved over the previous DVD offerings. The film mainly takes place in, as you might expect, an airplane and the lighting tends to be a bit dated, but the overall image does look nice and clean. There is a lot of stock footage used for the exterior shots of the plane as well as some of the ground shots. Colors seem a bit on the earthy side, with the brown hues of the interior of the plane taking over. I mentioned the lighting, it’s common of the time but it makes it look like everyone’s face is extremely oily. Still, I noticed no obvious flaws, detail was impressive as was contrast. Any fan of “Airplane!” will be satisfied with the image.

Audio: How does it sound?

This Blu-ray has been re-mastered with a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that sounds pretty good. Dialogue sounds very natural and there’s almost always a constant humming from the surrounds as the propeller sound plays in the back (a running joke, since the airplane is a jet). Elmer Berstein’s score is resonates throughout and I was impressed as to how strong this mix really is. Certainly it’s not on par with the movies of today, but it’s not a bad offering.

Supplements: What are the extras?

If you own the “Don’t Call Me Shirley” Edition of this film, then you essentially own this. This Blu-ray is a direct copy, supplements-wise, of that edition. The same Zucker, Abrams, Zucker commentary is in place as is the trivia track (called the “Long Haul” edition) and the original theatrical trailer. This is a tough call as die-hard fans will want this Blu-ray, but save for a bit better audio and video, you don’t get much. Oh, there’s new cover art. And it’s only available at Best Buy.

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