(review includes elements taken from the review of the prior DVD release.)
Obviously a comedy classic (the American Film Institute says so!), this 1980 film from the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker still remains the base of the spoof comedy genre that became more popular with the introduction of the team's "Naked Gun" series. It later evolved (although some may question the use of the word "evolved" with "spoof comedy" in the same sentence) into the kind of slapstick that the Farrelly brothers have made popular with "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary".
The film does back itself up with a plot about a former pilot(Robert Hayes) trying to get back together with his former girlfriend, but the main reason to watch the movie is the sheer volume of sight gags and various verbal jokes that are thrown out. Whether they work or not, the effort isn't lost on the audience. Some of the jokes that don't work are almost funny on their own because they're so absurd. Some of the jokes seem a bit dated at this point (20 years later), but the majority of them still are able to pull a solid laugh or two.
The acting is certainly not great, but captures the silly nature of the overall movie pretty well, and keeps the comedy flowing. At this point, comedy has advanced and become something rather different than "Airplane", but still, the film deserves notice as a landmark comedy.
VIDEO: Paramount has done as good as they probably could with the film's low-budget look and the film's age. There are times when sharpness is not as strong - the picture appears noticably soft at times, but I didn't find this to be a major distraction. Detail is okay as well. Some scenes that are dimly lit seem murky and not very well-defined.
Colors are not terribly enjoyable, and the picture as a whole seems a little washed out looking, with no strong colors to be found, leaving the presentation looking bland. Considering the age of the movie, print flaws aren't too bad. Some marks and slight scratches appear at times, but these seemed pretty much few and far between. A slight bit of pixelation and shimmer comes up in a few scenes. Grain is visible, but remains pretty light. Although the film will never be considered visually slick, hopefully Paramount will clean it up a little more down the road.
SOUND: The film's original mono soundtrack has been remastered here to Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and with the film's age and limited budget, there's not too much gained here. The music becomes a little bit more lively, but the quality of the audio still remains rather thin and flat. Surrounds very rarely come into play, but they are used appropriately. Of course, the fact that Paramount has taken the effort and time to remaster the original mono track is appreciated. This presentation's audio/video quality is the same as the prior release.
EXTRAS: Commentary: This is a commentary from producer Jon Davison, writer/director Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker. Although the commentary isn't as funny as their commentary tracks for the "Naked Gun" movies, I suppose the group can be forgiven due to the fact that this movie is now 20 years old. It's actually pretty remarkable about what they do remember as they go through the list of studios that they pitched the film to before finally settling on Paramount early in the discussion.
It's one of those commentaries where one of the group mentions something, and then the rest of the group lock into that topic and go onwards with it. There's only one point where the group goes into silence, but the rest of the track is filled with lively and often hilarious chat about the making of the movie. Again, it's not quite as funny as the "Naked Gun" commentaries, but it's certainly much funnier than any of the Farrelly Brothers commentaries. This is the same commentary that was included on the prior DVD release.
The main new bonus feature is titled "The Long Haul Version". If selected, the movie stops frequently throughout and takes the viewer to fairly brief interview clips and, in a couple of instances, deleted scenes - before automatically going back to the movie. The clips are funny, insightful and entertaining, as the interviews definitely shed a lot of light on the making of the movie and how some scenes were approached. Keep in mind that the movie stops automatically (and a lot) during this feature, so definitely don't watch the film this way if it's your first viewing. It's too bad that these clips couldn't be played all together separate from the film.
We also get a trivia subtitle track and the film's trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Airplane" swings and misses at times, but it throws so much material out, and most of it gets solid laughs. Paramount's new edition doesn't provide improvement in terms of picture or sound quality over the prior release and only a couple of new features. While I wouldn't recommend an upgrade for those who own the prior release, those who don't own the movie at all and are looking to purchase should seek out this edition instead of the prior one.
The Film B+