The original Airplane! certainly ranks as one of the greats in the comedy genre. An undeniable classic, it perfectly utilized the then-bourgeoning slew of survival disaster films and threw them into a blender of satire and sharp, dry wit that would set the bar high for generations to come. Its 1982 follow-up, Airplane II: The Sequel, however… not so much. In fact, it was an unmitigated disaster at the box-office. This is something that the original film’s directors, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, saw coming, as they not only passed on making the film, but haven't even seen it to this day! Now, in a recent interview, one of the directors has provided a rather blunt, hilarious reason why the latter is still the case.
In an interview with Yahoo!, David Zucker, one of the comedic directorial trio behind classics like the original Airplane! as well as the The Naked Gun series, fielded a question about the sequel that he and his collaborators thought was "unnecessary." Quoting one of his fellow directors, Jim Abrahams, Zucker explained,
Was 1982’s Airplane II such an abhorrent abomination of celluloid that Abrahams and the Zucker brothers would have rather seen a grown man naked? Probably not. Truth be told, the sequel provided some solid laughs. However, helmed by Ken Finkleman, who had already fallen on his directorial sword just earlier that same year with another disappointing sequel in Grease 2, Airplane II immediately suffered simply by being released too soon after the original. Despite the outer space angle, potential moviegoers were definitely experiencing a serious case of déjà vu, as the basic framework of the original film was pretty much still in place - as were a majority of the setups for the jokes that previously appeared so clever the first time around.
The original Airplane!, which borrowed heavily from 1957’s Zero Hour and the Airport franchise from the 1970’s, was essentially the birth of the "genre parody" type films, and was extremely revolutionary at the time - leading to a flood of similar attempts to varying degrees of success over the following decades. We do still see scattered remnants of it in contemporary releases with the Scary Movie films and the various other projects brandishing flavor-of-the-month tropes laced with an array of lowbrow, super-obvious jokes for a quick, timely parody turnover. However, there may be some hope for this genre in the future, as a reboot of The Naked Gun films starring Ed Helms looks to recapture that dry-witted magic that the Zuckers utilized so well in the past.
Airplane! was a masterpiece that was difficult to match. Abrahams and the Zucker brothers clearly realized this even back in 1980 when the studio approached them for a potential sequel. It just goes to show that sometimes going back to the box-office well, just more than once with the wrong property can sometimes yield poisoned water. (You hear that, Fifty Shades of Grey?)
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