Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says Iffy for 11+
Rapid-fire spoof with sexual jokes and cartoon violence.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Airplane! is a fast-paced, comic parody of the very popular disaster movies of the 1970s (i.e., Airport, The Poseidon Adventure). For the makers of this film, nothing is to be taken seriously, not even an impending airplane crash. Many of the drug and sexual references may fly over the heads of younger viewers. But absolutely nothing is sacred -- sexuality, violence, racial stereotyping, and substance abuse are all grist for their ingenious silliness. There's brief nudity (breasts), lots of sexual innuendo, and sexual sight gags, including a romantic interlude between a stewardess and an inflatable pilot, and scenes in which a pedophile comes on to a young boy. Characters fall out of windows, commit suicide in a variety of ways, fight, drink alcohol, sniff glue, snort cocaine, and use occasional coarse language ("ass," "s--t," "crap," "pisser" and more).
- Families can talk about the use of humor in the movie, and how several jokes are at the expense of women, people of color, war veterans, religious groups, and gays. How does context change the way we interpret comedy?
- Parents can also talk about the nature of parody, and how much of Airplane! is parodying other movies.
- How well do you think the filmmakers succeed at nonstop jokes and silliness?
The good stuff
Positive messages: Buried beneath the nonstop jokes and goofiness, the film's hero learns that the key to redemption is behaving courageously and putting the past behind him. He manages to shake off old fears and earlier cowardly acts by bravely taking command of a pilotless passenger plane and landing it safely.
Positive role models: The two leading characters are magnified heroes: undertaking impossible tasks, looking disaster directly in the eye, and saving lives despite their fear and ineptitude. Much of the humor in this film comes from taking traditionally cliched characters and stereotypes to new heights: a singing nun, a gay airline worker, two jive-talking African-Americans, Girl Scouts in a "brutal" fist fight, a substance abuser, even a sleazy pedophile.
What to watch for
Violence: Exaggerated, comic action throughout. Despite the fact that a passenger airplane is in danger of crashing for most of the film, it's never to be taken seriously and there's no real suspense. Other cartoon violence includes: a plane crashing into an airport waiting area, suicides (by hanging, "hari-kari," and setting oneself on fire), treacherous falls, a dog attack, brutal fights, a stabbing, a drug overdose, and pilots becoming ill, vomiting, and passing out. It appears for a few moments that a young female patient may suffocate when her medication is accidentally stopped.
Sexy stuff: The frequent sexual innuendo, fast-paced sexual references, exaggerated romantic behavior, even brief nudity (bare breasts, a thong), are all meant to be funny and, in many instances, to parody sexuality from other movies. A sequence reenacts the iconic shoreline love scene from From Here to Eternity. There are suggestive magazine covers, a silly sexual encounter between a woman and an inflatable vinyl airline pilot, a brief shot of an obscured gynecological exam, and a slick pedophile makes sly verbal comments to a young boy (i.e.,"Have you ever seen a grown man naked, Tommy?").
Language: Occasional swearing and vulgar language: "ass" "crap," "goddamn," "s--t," "pisser," "hell," "sit on face." A section of a magazine display is labeled "Whacking Material." There are farts, fart jokes, and feces are used as a comic prop.
Consumerism: Trans World Airlines, Coca Cola, Tupperware, U.S. News and World Report, Tab, Gatorade, Boys Life magazine.
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Substance abuse is parodied throughout. The hero has "a drinking problem" -- in his case, the problem is that the liquid misses his mouth when he attempts to drink from a glass. One character continually mentions that he plans to stop smoking, drinking, using amphetamines, and sniffing glue; he gives in to all of them on camera. Drinks are served in a bar, on the plane. A woman openly sniffs cocaine.