Kyle does Airplane II: The Sequel [plus retro review]

rairplaneii“No. I don’t think I’ll ever get over Macho Grande.”

The Scoop: 1982 PG, directed by Ken Finkleman and starring Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, and William Shatner

Tagline: For the ride of your life . . . All you need for Christmas are your two front seats!

Summary Capsule: once again trapped upon a nightmarish out-of-control flight towards certain death, Ted and Elaine must save not only the passengers but also themselves . . . from forced zaniness!

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Kyle’s Rating: Sometimes, it’s best to just let sleeping masterpieces lie

Kyle’s Review: I came painfully close to choosing Elaine’s quote “Ted, I have the strangest feeling we’ve been through this exact same thing before” as my primary bold quote up there at the top, but I couldn’t really muster the proper enthusiasm for making the choice. Which sums up this entire film, really. It’s probably unfair to hold too much animosity against Airplane II: The Sequel, and really I think of it as an unnecessary cousin whose holiday presence is mostly tolerated and who tends, possibly sadly, to receive birthday gifts straight from the clearance shelves or occasionally the local dollar stores.

But again, how can you be too mad at a sequel for not living up to what I seriously consider the funniest film ever made? Airplane II certainly got plenty of playtime on my downstairs television as I played with my Lego and action figures. A funny thing happened with time, however: as I grew larger, my tolerance for this sequel grew smaller. Which illustrates perfectly the dichotomy between this sequel and the original film. Airplane! contains multitudes; jokes have so many layers and the direction so nuanced that even people who don’t quite grasp the entirety of every joke will laugh at at least a facet or two. Airplane II functions basically on a singular level of low humor, and while most every participant is up for it the best they can hope for is the kind of ‘hilarity’ found on your modern last-place-in-the-ratings sitcom.

That shouldn’t diminish the pleasure, however slight, of seeing heroes like Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty reprise their all-time best roles. Lloyd Bridges can’t match his original performance, but that’s the obvious theme going on here. William Shatner brings the thunder in a second half performance that either j-u-s-t redeems this sequel’s existence or makes a valiant argument for its existence; that’s a debate for the ages.

Ultimately, there is nothing significant that this sequel offers that the original film doesn’t deliver upon is a much more refined and timeless way. Airplane II exists mainly as a curiosity, simultaneously one last look at some cherished characters in a story that wastes them but doesn’t necessarily diminish them by their involvement and proof positive that two different creative forces can work with the same premise and arguably the same basic materials and produce two wildly different results. I don’t wish Airplane II didn’t exists, but I view it mainly in comparison to the original to prove Airplane!‘s comedic eminence.

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Justin’s Rating: Ah, I could really go for a good “Rocky sequel” joke right about now.

Justin’s Review: Bad sequels have two ways of going: either they’re forgotten like Crystal Pepsi, or they become darkly notorious like New Coke. The notorious ones latch their reedy, decrepit bodies around their successful parent, dragging them down kicking and wailing into the lake of eternal fire. Remember when we all thought The Matrix was the hots? And then 2003 happened and we all ditched wearing sunglasses inside and politely moved on with our lives? You get the picture.

Forgettable sequels, like Airplane II: The Sequel, lack major strikes on their record – it’s usually just a mishmash of barely adequate failures (is that possible?) that can’t strike the perfect balance of elements that a sequel needs to survive in the wild. Airplane II isn’t a horrendous film, and even contains enough laughs to make it passable entertainment on a Saturday afternoon cable TV spree. It’s just that there’s really no new meat here that Airplane! didn’t already serve up.

Mostly this is the fault of director/writer Ken Finkleman, who found himself cut adrift from the comedic trio of Abrahams/Zucker/Zucker and immediately descended into arm-waving panic. We weren’t there, being only six years old at the time, but our imagination is usually accurate, and it tells us that a bare-chested Ken spent most of his writing hours flogging himself with phone cords and sacrificing many a suckling pig in vain to Thalia, the Muse of comedy and idyllic poetry. In the end, he merely dusted off the original Airplane! script and started scribbling in the margins. And it goes without saying that he ate a crapload of ham sandwiches.

Ergo, it’s disconcerting to see many of the familiar faces of Airplane! back – Ted, Elaine, Captain Oveur, McCroskey, Jacobs/Johnny – and hear them bomb second-rate jokes and mine old Airplane! gags for pity laughs. You know the “Hospital? What is it?” “It’s a big building with a red cross for sick people, but that isn’t important now.” joke? That got about one good laugh from me, on a rainy day in 1989, a follow-up grimace, and stony stares ever since? There’s no reason in the world that Airplane II found it necessary to break it out of the nostalgia vault for a good dozen more retreads (and don’t think I’m exaggerating, here).

In “the future” where wood-paneled station wagons and polyester threads exist in spades, commercial flights to the moon are viable and routine. Except, of course, for a brand new lunar shuttle made out of substandard parts and carrying a mad bomber, a psycho computer and the usual Airplane! suspects. Beat for beat, Airplane II follows the flight path of the first movie: the crew is incompacitated, Ted has to find his courage, and Elaine proves to be a monumental waste of space with a voice tweaked from decades of helium sucking. In fact, the only grand new addition to the cast is one Mr. William T. Shatner, who arrives about two-thirds of the way through the movie as the off-kilter lunar base commander. And trust me, “off-kilter” was no far stretch for the man who would give us Star Trek V.

Still, if you like your gags as physical and optical as all get-out, and don’t mind a huge amount of naked breasts for a PG film (“Mommy! Mommy! Can we rent this? And then can you explain where our 2% milk really came from?”), it’s not quite as bad as, say, Caddyshack II. If that’s how you’re going to lower your standards, then you might as well start here.

And yet, even Rocky VI was better than this film

And yet, even Rocky VI was better than this film

Intermission!

  • The cityscape visible outside the window behind the Transcendental Air desk is from Logan’s Run
  • The woman driven to vomiting by Ted’s endless anecdotes is the same woman who hung herself as a similar response in the first film
  • A piece of equipment used in the Alpha Beta base that is jokingly observed to seemingly serve no real purpose has been seen in several other films and television shows, including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Last Starfighter, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • The automobile they use to jump-start the space shuttle is a 1958 Ford Edsel, one of the biggest flops in automotive history
  • * An African-American man in an blue jumpsuit vacuums the rear of the cockpit in one scene, listening to “Car Wash”, representing a character from the 1976 film of the same name.
  • The Battlestar Galactica theme, played over and over
  • Star Warsy scroll… and kinky!
  • Boob detector?
  • E.T.’s cameo
  • Rip Torn! With red hair!
  • Rocky XXXVIII
  • 2001 parody
  • “Give them the lead!” That made me laugh hard.
  • The window behind the “Transcendental Air” desk shows the cityscape from Logan’s Run
  • William Shatner’s character orders a profile on everyone who’s seen The Sound of Music more than four times. That film was directed by Robert Wise, who also directed Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which starred William Shatner three years earlier.
  • The truck that Ted leaps out of to get into the skyport is named “Ken’s Trucking” and has a Canadian maple leaf on it. This is an inside joke since “Ken” is Writer-Director Ken Finkleman who is from Canada, hence the Maple Leaf.
  • The sound effects as the boy in the control room is “playing” with the incoming plane’s radar are from the Atari 2600 game Yars’ Revenge
  • The car they used to jump-start the Space Shuttle prior to launch is a 1958 Ford Edsel, noteworthy as one of the biggest marketing flops in automotive history.
  • This is the first film to use the “starstreak” patterns that later became a familiar sight in the later Star Trek series and films. They appear when Stryker activates the Warp Drive.
  • Sonny Bono’s briefcase is covered with stickers from his previous destinations, which are all cities destroyed by bombs: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Pearl Harbor, and Dresden.

Groovy Quotes

Prosecutor: Dr. Stone, would you give the court your impression of Mr. Striker?
Dr. Stone: I’m sorry, I don’t do impressions . . . my training is in psychiatry.

McCroskey: Jacobs, what have you got on Elaine Dickinson?
Jacobs: Well, I’m two inches taller, a better dancer, and much more fun to be with.

Elaine: Ted, I have the strangest feeling we’ve been through this exact same thing before.

Steve McCroskey: And I can sum it all up in just one word: courage, dedication, daring, pride, pluck, spirit, grit, mettle, and G-U-T-S. Guts. Why, Ted Striker’s got more guts in his little finger than most of us have in our large intestine. Including the colon!

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4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Airplane! [retro review] « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

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