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ROBERT HAYS CARRYING 'AIRPLANE!' WITH JULIE HAGERTY

year: 1980 rating: ****1/2

Like any Mel Brooks vehicle and especially those "early, funny" films of Woody Allen, where there's a joke a minute encapsulated by and parodying a specific theme or genre, and being an outright spoof of the AIRPORT films while intentionally mirroring the names and plot of the 1950's Dana Andrews/Sterling Hayden camp melodrama ZERO HOUR, the classic, groundbreaking, joke-loaded AIRPLANE!, written and directed by the team of Jerry Zucker, David Zucker and Jim Abrahams, still holds up... 

And with a barrage of famous veteran character-actors playing their usual ultra-serious roles within (and despite of) the constant zaniness, the real stars are Robert Hays as Ted Stryker and Julie Hagerty as Elaine Dickinson, alleviating the hilarious parts by actually moving the story along: Ted is lovestruck, intentionally stuck on the same plane as Elaine's stewardess and, suffering flashbacks from the Second World War, might have to fly the damn thing to save all the passengers, and himself, while attempting to rekindle his former flame... Sound serious?

Well what makes AIRPLANE! work aren't just the perpetual jokes but the fact the real story carries everything else, without getting in the way and still, in itself, delivering genuine laughs. Standout characters include Peter Graves as a pilot who gives a little boy very shady advice, Robert Stack as Kramer, the stern chief inside the Tower along with Lloyd Bridges keeping the nervy pace moving and especially Stephen Stucker, stealing every scene as the flamboyant Johnny while the titular vessel remains hilariously grounded by Leslie Neilson's Dr. Rumack, Lorna Patterson's patient stewardess Randi, and with oh so many hilarious gags (some better than others) there's nothing left but to but highly recommending this flight be your next one...

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