Zucker- Abrahams- Zucker
It's really one of those perfect films. Everything about it is simply inspired. A spoof of seventies disaster flicks (particularly the AIRPORT movies, which- if watched nowadays are pretty funny in their own right), the ZAZ gang actually used the script for an old fifties potboiler called ZERO HOUR (which TCM showed in an eye-opening double-bill with AIRPLANE! last year) as a jumping off point, letting their imaginations run wild from there.
Considering the amount of per-capita laughs, there's hardly a second in AIRPLANE where you won't at least be chuckling, although if you somehow have manged to get by without ever seeing it, be aware that you have to surrender to it, as AIRPLANE exists in its own insane little world.
Considering the comic icon Leslie Nielsen went on to become, it's hard to believe that before AIRPLANE, he had never done comedy. He was known as a dead-serious leading man/character actor, who, after making a splash as the square-jawed leading man of FORBIDDEN PLANET, found himself playing mostly authority figures (including the ship's captain in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE), and part in movie-of-the-week. In some ways, Jon Hamm seems like a natural to carry on where Nielsen left-off, with them both being square-jawed leading men, who probably shouldn't be funny, but just naturally are.
Other than Nielsen, three other character actors play wildly against type, with Peter Graves (“ever seen a grown man naked?”), Lloyd Bridges (“looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking/smoking/popping pills/sniffing glue”) and the always great Robert Stack (“what are your memories of Christmas Ted? To me, it was a living hell!”). All of them are genius and seem to be having a ball sending themselves up (apparently, Stack was particularly keen to spoof his own image). I also really like the two leads, Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty. Hays is so naturally funny as Stryker, one wonders why he didn't go on to a bigger career, but I suppose he just got linked with the character. The awful ZAZ/Nielsen/Stack-free follow-up (AIRPLANE 2- THE SEQUEL) probably didn't help matters, but alas- he still has one iconic role under his belt that will live forever. And let me tell you, this does!