Dir: Ken Finkleman, 1982
After the smash hit that Airplane! was in 1980, it was inevitable that distributors Paramount would want a sequel, but the original team of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker (ZAZ) weren’t interested.
But, money talks in Hollywood and Paramount weren’t going to let go. Thankfully, Ken Finkleman stepped in and produced a brilliant and worthy film that succeeds when most sequels fail.
The moon has been colonised and space shuttles regularly take passengers on voyages.
Ted Striker (Robert Hays) has been committed to a mental asylum for his part in a test flight that went wrong.
Reading that the shuttle that crashed in the rest flight, Mayflower One, is to go ahead.
Ted escapes from the asylum and purchases a ticket.
When the computer malfunctions and sends the lunar shuttle on a path to the sun, it’s up to Striker and his old flame, Elaine (Julie Hagerty), to save the passengers.
Airplane II ran the risk of rehashing the jokes from the first film but, thankfully, writer and director Finkleman keeps things fresh and funny, with some ingenious moments that would make the ZAZ trio envious.
Finkleman knew that he couldn’t use an airplane disaster, again, but with science fiction TV shows proving popular, gave the film a space theme.
Giving Finkleman so much to work with, he creates an inspired ninety minutes of lunacy that comes close to the hugely funny original.
Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty reprise their roles as the on again/off again romantic couple, as does Peter Graves with his suspect and dubious Captain Oveur. The ever brilliant Lloyd Bridges is his fine, madcap self.
Spoofing every science fiction film and TV series it can think of, Airplane II does a remarkable job at keeping the laughs flowing.
There is some superb wordplay at work, and a conversation between the Captains Oveur, Unger and Dunn is a joy.
Famous faces of the time readily gobbled up the chance to poke fun at themselves. William Shatner appears as Striker’s arch enemy. Clearly enjoying the opportunity to have a laugh, Shatner rants about being surrounded by blinking and flashing lights that don’t do anything. Graves is finally allowed to send up his Mission: Impossible character, complete with Lalo Schifrin’s theme tune.
Some of the jokes are seriously immature and seem like the writing of a teenager. To open and close the doors of the space station, the employer has to make an onomatopoeia “schup” sound. It’s daft and it’s silly, but it works so well.
Ex-Mr. Cher, Sonny Bono, stars as an angry passenger, who buys a bomb from the gift shop, intent on blowing up the shuttle. A poster in the background, with an old man, advertising Rocky XXXVIII is a highlight.
The thing with spoof films, is that they are not meant to be analysed. They are just fun. As a whole, Airplane II is not clever. It’s just a bag of jokes, strung together by a slack plot.
It isn’t anything more than that and has never pretended to be.
A wonderful comedy.