Bottom Line: Crash landing.
Directed by: Ken Finkleman
Starring: Chad Everett, John Vernon, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Robert Hays, William Shatner
Dialogue from Airplane! (1980)
Reporter: “What kind of plane is it?”
Johnny: “Oh, it’s a big pretty white plane with red stripes, curtains in the windows and wheels and it looks like a big Tylenol.”
I’m a huge fan of 1980’s Airplane!. That should imply that I avoided Airplane II: The Sequel, but unfortunately, I subjected myself to it actually expecting something. I guess there’s a reason the film is subtitled “The Sequel,” even though that’s typically assumed in the Roman numeral “II.” What else would it be? “The Insult”? “The Rehash”? “The Homage”? Ironically, Airplane II is all three of those, more so than an actual sequel. This isn’t a work of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker, the trio who churned out non sequiturs galore and never failed to earn massive laughter. This is the work of a fanboy, someone by the name of Ken Finkleman. Not one joke is invented from scratch; all of them are merely recycled gags that rarely amuse. And the film doesn’t even take place on an airplane. It’s now a spacecraft–a simple excuse to regurgitate humor in an oh so predictable fashion. Yet it’s still referred to as a “flight.”
In Airplane!, we found Ted Striker (Robert Hays) aboard an aircraft headed toward hell. The dinner leads to food poisoning of half the passengers as well as the pilot, and he is the bravest among a plane full of incompetent idiots. Following the inevitable plane crash, he is sent to court, then to a mental asylum. This time, it’s not his fault. Set in “the future,” Airplane II depicts Ted having escaped the hospital in order to save a space shuttle threatened by a bomb. Somehow, he immediately becomes pilot, but never earns anyone’s respect. Sometimes it’s because of the long, suicide-inducing life stories he tells; others it’s because during his time at war, he barely made it out of a Macho Grande plane mission alive.
But this is a spacecraft. Not an aircraft. Why the hell can the writer not understand that, even after he himself has established it in the very beginning? It’s a very confusing experience, especially as a comedy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d simply picked up the predecessor’s screenplay and began copying word-for-word, occasionally changing words to fit a science fiction namesake. Well, at least that kept him for accusations of plagiarism. Still, the delivery sparsely makes sense from a viewer’s perspective. Did I mention how corny the film eventually gets? And I don’t mean the campy humor from which it cheerfully derives. I mean the poor acting from Julie Hagerty and William Shatner. It seems even Captain Kirk can’t tell the difference between air and space, but I guess I can forgive that, since I’ve never seen an airplane in Star Trek. Where are Leslie Nielsen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the original writing-directing trio when you need them?