Mailvox: the big questions

LA queries:

I had a question–do you have an opinion on the movie Airplane!?
humor on this movie has always escaped me.  I’ve always found many
comedy movies to be fairly stupid but I can always suspend disbelief,
put aside logical problems in a decent sci fi or comedy movie, and find
some way to enjoy the humor even if it isn’t my normal cup of tea.
 But this movie has always been the one film I cannot stand.
a friend that reads Vox Popoli and I were having a spat about it and it
made me curious if you enjoyed it or if you ever saw it, and whether
you care one way or another.

I thought Airplane had its amusing moments, but would not put it in my personal top 25 movies or even top 20 comedies.  I can stand it, but only in short doses; I’ve never been able to watch it all the way through.  Its humor is mostly of the sort that I consider to be too broad-based and obvious to be more than moderately funny even when done right.  I think an element of surprise, or at least unpredictability, is necessary to make something genuinely hilarious, and most of Airplane’s humor is entirely predictable, being based on stupid and unlikely misunderstandings.

As a writer once said that if the plot of your novel is dependent upon your characters being stupid, you don’t have an actual book.  In like manner, I don’t find humor that depends upon the characters being borderline retarded to be amusing.  And if a “humorous” pratfall is somehow involved, I am left colder than cold.  I simply don’t find people falling down, particularly in a theatrical manner, to be be funny at all.  When I see an adult laugh at someone slapping their forehead and falling down, or pretending to faint, I seriously wonder what is wrong with them.

But Airplane! does have its moments.  The “I speak jive” line is funny, although the actual execution of the jivespeak borders on the painful.  The surely/Shirley bit is almost Wodehousean and is done well in a deadpan manner that probably wouldn’t have worked nearly as well for anyone not named Leslie Nielsen.  And the short exchanges between Joey and the Captain are downright quoteworthy.  That being said, I looked at the list of what are supposedly the greatest quotes from the movie and noted that less than a quarter of them actually struck me as funny.

To me, easily the funniest movie ever made is Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Other movies that I found to be funnier than Airplane! include Heathers, Weird Science, The Hangover, The Gods Must Be Crazy, The Big Lebowski, Old School, A Fish Called Wanda, Dodgeball, Grosse Pointe Blank, Notting Hill, the first two American Pie films, Stripes, The Pink Panther, and Being There.