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Picks and Pans Review: Airplane Ii: the Sequel

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It could well have been just another crass, exploitative sequel, but Airplane II is an amiable, fresh comedy. The strange, surprising success of 1980’s Airplane!, which cost about $3.5 million and thus far has grossed $158 million, would be hard to duplicate. This film includes basically the same cast and crew, but without the writing-directing team of Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker, who were responsible for the original’s relentless black humor. They have given way to the relatively unknown Ken Finkleman, making his directorial debut. (He wrote the screenplay for Grease 2.) The plot has to do with the launching of the first commercial shuttle to a moon colony. Sight gags and non sequiturs tumble all over each other. Fans of the original will be pleased that Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty return as the love-crossed stars. Lloyd Bridges is back as the chain-smoking air traffic controller; so are Peter Graves as the pederastic pilot and Stephen Stucker as the wisecracking gay at Mission Control. Both Leslie Nielsen, who followed Abrahams, Zucker and Zucker to the undeservedly short-lived TV comedy Police Squad!, and Robert Stack have been replaced. Instead, Airplane II boasts William Shatner as an energetic lunar base commander and Chuck Connors as the gruff Sarge at the launch site. Sonny Bono also appears as an impotent bomber who has purchased his explosive device in the airport gift shop; Chad Everett is a conniving crew member; Raymond Burr is a judge, and game show host Art Fleming has a cameo as himself. Don’t expect overwhelming amounts of common sense; just expect to laugh. Airplane II not only manages to lumber down the runway; it even flies under its own power, a rare accomplishment for a sequel. (PG)