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AIRPLANE! ($30) is the ultimate parody of the airline disaster movie, although the film isn't too high and mighty to take pot shots at just about everything else it can get away with. While AIRPLANE! does feature a plot, the story line occasionally gets shoved aside for the film's unmerciful barrage of jokes, bad puns and sight gags. Most of AIRPLANE! Induces laughter, although there are some jokes that fall flat and just lays there. AIRPLANE! also features a wonderful politically incorrect atmosphere, with plenty of tasteless jokes that would never make it into a movie these days.

The threadbare story centers on Ted Striker (Robert Hays), who hasn't been able to go near an airplane since an ill-fated mission during the war. When his longtime stewardess girlfriend Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty) leaves him, Ted books passage on Elaine's flight hoping to work things out. Unfortunately, the entire flight crew (and most of the passengers) are taken ill after eating the in flight meal. With no one else on board able to fly the plane, Ted is forced to face his greatest fear and take command. Yup, the plot is pure melodrama with every cliché thrown in for good measure—but that's a big part of the reason that AIRPLANE! is undeniably hilarious. No one in the cast is beneath doing what it takes to get a laugh and the co-writers/co-directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker milk every situation for all its worth. The lunatic cast of AIRPLANE! includes Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Robert Stack, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lorna Patterson and Barbara Billingsley.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made AIRPLANE! available on DVD in its first wide screen incarnation and the presentation features anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. This DVD is the best that AIRPLANE! has ever looked at home, however there are certain limits within the film's original cinematography that the fine transfer is unable to overcome. In many places the image appears somewhat soft, but please remember that AIRPLANE! was a low budget comedy that wasn't shot to make an artistic statement-- "just make sure the actors are in focus and everyone can see the jokes" seems to be the only statement this film makes. Film grain is noticeable in a number of spots, but it is never bothersome. Colors are surprisingly good, appearing a bit more vibrant than they have in the past. Flesh tones are accurately rendered and there is no evidence of chromatic distortion. Blacks are solid, contrast is good and the level of shadow detail is decent. Digital compression artifacts do not make their presence known on this disc.

The film's soundtrack has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix, which really benefits Elmer Bernstein's musical score. Directional sound effects are few and far between, however the music does have a nice stereo surround presence. Overall, the track has limited fidelity and dynamics, but the jokes come through nice and clear. There is no bottom end, so I guess the bass channel was too busy laughing at the movie to do anything else. A French monaural soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of supplements. An audio commentary with producer Jon Davidson, as well as the co-writers/co-directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker has been included. The commentary is a whole lot of fun, so you get to laugh the second time around if you take the time to listen to the track. A theatrical trailer is also included on the DVD.

Even after twenty years, AIRPLANE! still produces solid laughs. If you are a fan, don't hesitate to pick up Paramount's fine DVD offering.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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