Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Second Age Review Backlog 1: Airplane!

Since I'm trying to get my footing when it comes to reviewing things, I figured I'd review some classic movies, rather than all new movies. And since the indie theatre near me shows cult classics, what better way to choose what movies to review than what they're playing at the theatre. So with that in mind, let's get started, shall we?

As has been repeatedly proven by the rash of just plain awful spoof movies of the last few years, mostly with two word titles ending in "Movie," the people doing spoof movies seem to have lost how to make such movies good. There are a lot of pieces that make spoof movies good, but for my money they seem to be forgetting one major piece. One of the main things that makes spoofs, and indeed most absurdist comedies good, is the delivery of absurd dialogue or action completely straight faced and sincere. This style of comedy is what made all Daily Show correspondents, but especially Stephen Colbert famous, and it still informs his style today. Modern spoofs, Scary MovieEpic Movie and the like, seem to be sitting next to you, poking you on the arm after every joke and pointing out that it's funny. Nowhere is the straight faced absurdity more appreciated than in one of the most famous spoof movies and the gold standard against which all must inevitably be measured:Airplane!

Airplane! (the exclamation point is part of the title) is, for the most part, a spoof of the at the time, popular series of Airport movies, which all enjoyed the same setup of a plane about to crash and some unlikely former pilot being brought in to save it. This, for the record, is the other major thing that modern spoofs seem to forget. Rather than spoofing a group of movies, or even a genre, most of the good spoof films zero in on a single film or series of films and hold on it, and Airplane! is no exception, viciously lampooning the Airport series, while throwing in occasional references to everything from The Gipper, to Saturday Night Fever. Two other spoofs in this style are Hot Shots and Hot Shots: Part Duex, which themselves spoof Top Gun and Rambo respectively.

But I digress. The setup is agreeably simple, an airplane is stricken after it's entire flight crew takes ill and a former WWII pilot is called from the passengers to land it. There are some side plots involving a romance and the pilot struggling with his memories of the war, but neither of those are exceptionally relevant, especially since the plot is almost entirely set up.
The writing and camera work are given much more attention than they usually get in films like this, and yes I know that's a poorly executed link, but whatever. The spoofs of the other films don't usually influence the main running spoof, almost entirely self contained within whatever scene it's joked about. A personal favorite piece of this films, and most good films in this vein like Top Secret and, hey the Hot Shots films again, is that while most of the jokes are up front about it, a lot of jokes are in details. For example, there is a point when a character, post monologue, leans over his desk, and in the background directly to his right is a picture of him in the exact same position. This is added on to with jokes contained within the credits themselves, such as a credit reading "Generally in charge of a lot of things."

In all honesty, I'm at a loss of what to say. As I believe MovieBob pointed out, comedies are hard to review and spoofs doubly so. Airplaine! in particular is hard to review, because most people have seen it and even if you haven't, everyone knows it's great. As a brief aside on the Airportfilms, I can't honestly recommend you seek them out, unless you have a firm grasp on the concept of ironic enjoyment. As for Airplane! if for whatever reason you have yet to see it, I heartily recommend you do so. Most libraries should have a copy, and even if they don't every Blockbuster does. I've personally seen it several times, and I've yet to stop laughing at the jokes. Plus it would be nice to see a spoof film that not only gets it right, but does it entirely perfectly. So now you've had everyone you know and me recommend this film to you, so you go check it out, and I'll see you soon.

Next on Second Age Reviews: Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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