AIRPLANE!: “DON’T CALL ME SHIRLEY!” EDITION (DVD)

3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 87 minutes
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When you play one of their DVDs, why must Paramount force trailers that you can only get past by skipping chapters, as opposed to simply pressing the Menu button? A minor quibble, to be sure, but it’s an annoyance I’ve been meaning to get off my chest for a while now. Thanks for indulging me.

Oh, yeah, the review. If you haven’t seen “Airplane!” before, I suggest this: Go find the 1957 film “Zero Hour!” and watch it. If you find yourself laughing at dialogue that was supposed to be serious but instead came out comical because of poor writing and acting, then you’re ready for this movie. If, on the other hand, you don’t see how anything could possibly be funny about an airline flight having serious problems (“Especially in a post-9/11 world!” you shriek), then I suggest you move on to something else. Right now. Really.

Okay, now that I’m on the same page as the rest of you, I can skip the annoying plot recitation that other DVD reviewers on the Internet think is required for every disc they watch. Sometimes you just gotta make a leap of faith and assume your readers don’t need to rehash that for the umpteenth time. They get it already.

With that said, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by this new “Don’t Call Me Shirley!” Edition of “Airplane!” While I love the new menus, which parody an airline safety card, I was irritated by the “Long Haul” version of the film. When you select that feature, a “TA” logo pops up every so often and the movie cuts away to an interview segment or cut scene. (You may remember a couple of the latter if you watch the film on TV.) While those bits are great, I would have preferred to see them included as a separate featurette. They probably total at least an hour, which would make a nice documentary supplement, especially considering their wealth of reminiscences from ZAZ (as the Zucker brothers and Abrahams are known), as well as cast members.

If Paramount had to present the material that way, they could have at least allowed you to simply view all those clips without watching the movie too. All the segments provide the context for what’s being discussed, so it’s not like you’d see ZAZ or a cast member talking about something that you don’t understand. However, as I said, the clips are great and they provide piles of information, so spending the time to watch the “Long Haul” version is certainly worthwhile. Maybe I’m just crabby because my time tends to be limited.

This release also repurposes the original DVD’s commentary track, which features ZAZ having a great time as they chat about the making of the film and remember its genesis. Some of the information is repeated in the “Long Haul” interview segments, but it’s still a fun track. And since the film is only 87 minutes long, it’s not like you have to take out a huge chunk of time to listen to it.

Some of the commentary and “Long Haul” stuff is also repeated in the trivia track, which I recommend turning on with the commentary so that you can knock off two bonus features at the same time. In the style of VH1’s “Pop-Up Video,” text boxes appear and relay various bits of trivia. Unlike similar tracks I’ve seen on other DVDs, however, these boxes appear all over the screen and sometimes include arrows that point out little details, like Robert Hays sneaking through a crowd to enter a scene after his stunt double has flipped through the air. Other trivia tracks, like the ones Paramount includes on its “Star Trek” movie DVDs, just present a few sentences at the bottom of the screen.

Finally, you get the theatrical trailer as well as an insert that parodies an airline safety card (can’t have enough of those) and includes a coupon to send away for your own inflatable Otto the auto-pilot.

This is a worthwhile purchase for “Airplane!” fans, especially those of you who didn’t buy the previous DVD. If you do own the earlier disc, you’ll have to decide how badly you want to upgrade. And feel free to consider me a cranky old bastard for bitching about the presentation of the “Long Haul” version. Your mileage may vary.



Posted on January 5, 2006 in Reviews by
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