The Backstage Theatre’s People’s Choice winner for April, “Airplane!,” is simply the funniest movie of all time. It handles the broad range of parody, satire and plain silliness expertly and has some of the greatest one-liners and sight gags ever put in a movie. The film will screen at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 23, at the Backstage Theatre in Breckenridge.
The key to this film’s success is its gloriously inane and cheerful anything-goes comic attitude. Some of the jokes are crude, others strange, many are spot-on, sidesplitting parodies of such popular pictures as “Jaws,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “From Here to Eternity,” “Zero Hour” and the “Airport” series — all of them work because they are presented in a perfectly deadpan, yet still wacky tone.
Writer-directors Jim Abrams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker load the movie with so many throwaway jokes that you have to watch several times in order to catch them all. Moreover, the game and engaging cast all give spirited performances: Robert Hays as goofy hero Ted Striker, Julie Hagerty as daffy stewardess Elaine, Leslie Nielsen as dour Dr. Rumack, Lloyd Bridges as harried airport manager McCluskey (who picked the wrong day to give up drinking booze, taking amphetamines and sniffing glue), Stack as ramrod Rex Kramer, Peter Graves as the kinky Captain Oveur, Stephen Stucker as the zany Johnny and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as co-pilot Roger Murdock.
Uproarious highlights include a sweet stewardess serenading a sickly girl with a sappy folk ballad, a little old lady sniffing coke, Barbara Billingsley speaking jive and the “Don’t Call Me Shirley” running verbal gag. Joseph Biroc’s polished cinematography and Elmer Bernstein’s appropriately melodramatic score further enhance the overall sterling quality of this absolute hoot.
The real stars of the movie are the incessant, mile-a-minute visual, referential and verbal jokes that assault the viewer faster than he or she can register. References to classic movies, soap operas, commercials from the ’70s (“Jim never drinks a second cup of coffee at home ...”), pedophilia, basketball, voice recordings that guide people through airports, outrageous takes on characters from the very movies they are spoofing — in short, nothing is spared here, and it makes for a relentlessly funny movie.
If your name is actually Shirley, and you have photo ID to prove it, the Backstage is offering half-price admission, since you’ll have to endure bunches of “Don’t call me Shirley” jokes. Simply say, “My name is Shirley” when buying your ticket. Since “Airplane!” is generally an equal-opportunity offender, anyone named Roger gets the same deal — Roger that, Roger.
Comedy aficionado Jon Hans, frequent actor at the Backstage (“The 10th,” “Beauty and the Beast”) and Summit Stage driver, will introduce the film.
“It’s even sillier with an audience,” said Laurie Rambaud, films coordinator for the Backstage. “A giggle with your family becomes a belly laugh with an audience. Join in and spend an evening laughing hysterically.”
Some of the most interesting films from Breckenridge Film Festivals past are scheduled every Thursday and Friday through early June. On Thursday, April 24, and Friday, April 25, “Cadaver” and “Strings” are screening. In the wake of his daughter’s death in “Strings,” a troubled musician seeks out an experimental therapist to turn his life around. When the therapist calls for him to leave everything behind and take on a new identity, the musician realizes his new life isn’t what it seems.
There is still time to vote for May’s Viewer’s Choice Film: Thrills, to be shown Wednesday, May 21, at 7 p.m. Options include “North by Northwest” (1959), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “Jaws” (1975), “The Shining” (1980), “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). Go to www.backstagetheatre.org or vote in person at the theater.
Concessions are available for all film screenings, including beer, wine and mixed drinks. For more information about the Classic Film Series, visit www.backstagetheatre.org or call the box office at (970) 453-0199.