Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

DISASTER MOVIES MONTH: Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)

The first “Airplane!” became a surprise hit. Apparently after a decade of watching cheesy disaster movies, audiences were ready and willing to line up for a parody of cheesy disaster movies. Of course, “Airplane!” was also hilarious, an instant comedy classic. Perhaps Paramount figured that, since “Airport” spawned a long-running series, perhaps “Airplane!” could support a number of sequels as well. “Airplane II: The Sequel” crashed into theaters in 1982. The Z.A.Z. team, however, expressed no interest in returning. For years, I've always heard how mediocre and shitty “The Sequel” was without actually watching it. Now, for the first time, I sit down to watch the widely dismissed continuation.

Like many shitty sequels, “Airplane II” begins by undoing all the growth the characters went through in the first film. It's the future, the moon has been colonized, and people regularly travel between it and Earth. Ted Stryker crashed an experimental lunar shuttle, loosing his composure again, and ending his relationship with Elaine. Ted escapes the mental hospital he's in to sneak onto the space shuttle Elaine and her new boyfriend are working on. Once again, something goes wrong. The ship computer goes crazy, forcing the shell-shocked Ted and the quiet Elaine to once again save the day.

Perhaps suspecting that audiences were already forgetting about the disaster craze of the seventies, “Airplane II” shifts the focus of its parody slightly. The movie is still slightly mocking disaster movies. The subplot, concerning Sonny Bono sneaking a bomb onto the space vessel, is obviously inspired by the first “Airport.” The plot still concerns Ted being forced to pilot an aircraft, making this an imitation of an imitation of “Zero Hour!” “The Sequel,” otherwise, is a half-assed riff on science fiction. E.T. attempts to use a payphone in the lunar airport. A HAL-9000 style computer, gone mad with power, briefly motivates the plot. There's a one scene reference to Darth Vader's heavy breathing and several loose jokes about “Star Trek.” However, “The Sequel” doesn't really seem interested in science fiction. These jokes come off as toothless and directionless.

Comedy sequels are tricky. Too many are content to simply repeat gags from the previous movie. This is a habit “Airplane II: The Sequel” ritually indulges in. Some of your favorite gags from the first movie are hammered into the ground. Following up some goofy wordplay with “But that's not important right now” is drained of all its silly power. Ted's drinking, tossing a full glass into his face, is repeated lifelessly. His habit of literally talking passengers to death is reprised. The jive-talking black guy and panicking, slapped woman return, doing the exact same gags they did in the first movie. Lloyd Bridges and Peter Graves are back, performing the most minor of variations on the jokes they told before. They couldn't get Robert Stack but Chuck Conners is here to fill in a basically identical part. Even the jiggling titties show up again. Many of the original film's hits are played again, with none of the conviction or fun of the first go-around.

So “The Sequel” is pretty dire, as far as comedies go. Are there any gags in the film that work? One or two got a tiny chuckle out of me. Stephen Stucker reappears, bringing some of his anarchic comedy talent to a few lines of dialogue. In the one funny reprise of a joke from the first film, Lloyd Bridges now owns two identical portraits of himself. There are a few gags that are almost funny – such as two suitcases barking at each other as if they were dogs or William Shatner's Kirk-riffing supporting part – but the timing is off. Many of the gags that aren't blatantly copied from the first movie come off as overly mean-spirited, like the film repeatedly toying with killing a dog. Or Herve Villechaize being cast strictly for a cheap, visual gag.

Zucker, Abraham, and Zucker have always been dismissive of “Airplane II.” They say they've never seen it and have no desire to see it. I can't say I blame them. The sequel ends by promising “Airplane III,” in a joking-but-not-really manner. While “The Sequel” was somewhat successful at the box office, making 27 million against a 15 million dollar budget, the reception was muted enough to put the kibosh on any further sequels. And thank goodness for that. “Airplane II” is a pathetic attempt to replicate the first's success, lamely copying many of the same jokes while contributing new jokes of little value. It is a worthless sequel. [4/10]

[] Awards Bait Ballad
[X] Corrupt or Incompetent Authority Figures
[] Destruction of Famous Landmarks
[X] Grim Predictions
[X] Group In-Fighting
[X] Heroic Sacrifices
[X] Massive Collateral Damage or Explosions
[X] Pets or Kids are Imperiled but Survive
[X] Romantic Couple Resolves Problems
[X] Star-Studded Cast

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