“Airplane!” is often regarded as one of the greatest comedies ever made, and for good reason. Even though I’ve seen it a number of times in my life, I always find a slew of background jokes I missed beforehand. But while the gag-a-minute pace is what gave the film its charm, Brett Goldstein believes that the film’s success lies in something much more meaningful (via /Film):
“You care the airplane lands, you care about this romance in it, you want them to succeed. You’re invested in these characters, as ridiculous as that film is. It’s quite an extreme example, but it still has heart, that film. It still has emotion in it. I think without that, I don’t want to watch it. I don’t want to make it.”
I can’t imagine what “Airplane!” would be without the “don’t call me Shirley” bit, or the s*** hitting the fan gag, but without its story, you don’t really have much of a movie. The film mostly derived from taking everything from the melodramatic thriller “Zero Hour!,” and playing it straight while incorporating the Zuckers’ brand of humor. “Airplane!” operates by its own internal dream logic where anything could happen, but it still matters to see these characters through.
We’ve seen what happens when parodies like “Meet the Spartans” lose sight of the bigger picture in favor of telling lazy and distasteful jokes for the sake of hoping something will just get a laugh. Given that comedies require sustained patience, it helps to have some kind of narrative guiding your laughs.
“Shrinking” is currently streaming on AppleTV+, while “Airplane!” can be found on HBO Max.