In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_hercules

Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

Thumb_f8f20egntzlhnjjletts89sx5lt

Magic in the Moonlight

While Allen’s new picture, "Magic In The Moonlight," isn’t even close to being a disaster (for that, see, well, "Scoop"), I don’t think it’s unreasonable…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Life Itself Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Airport

  |  

On some dumb fundamental level, "Airport" kept me interested for a couple of hours. I can't quite remember why. The plot has few surprises (you know and I know that no airplane piloted by Dean Martin ever crashed). The gags are painfully simpleminded (a priest, pretending to cross himself, whacks a wise guy across the face). And the characters talk in regulation B-movie clichés like no B-movie you've seen in ten years. Example: A bomb blows a hole in the airplane and weakens the tail structure. Martin's co-pilot says: "Listen, Vern, I want you to know that if there's anything I can do..." What's he talking about? Martin's girl.

The movie has a lot of expensive stars, but only two (Helen Hayes and Van Heflin) have wit enough to abandon all pretense of seriousness. Even Martin, who can be charming in a movie when he relaxes, plays a straight hero-type this time. Burt Lancaster is even straighter and more heroic, as needs be, since he has to run the airport, supervise George Kennedy in pulling out a stuck Boeing 707, and decide to divorce his wife, all at the same time.

But Miss Hayes and Heflin apparently realized early on that "Airport" was going to be a deadly dull affair, and they went about salvaging their own roles, at least. Miss Hayes milks her role of a little-old-lady stowaway for all it's conceivably worth, and I have a suspicion she wrote some of her own dialogue. It's warmer and more humorous than the stiff lines everyone else has to recite, and she won an Oscar for the role.

Heflin, as the guy with the bomb in his briefcase, is perhaps the only person in the cast to realize how metaphysically absurd "Airport" basically is. The airplane already has a priest, two nuns, three doctors, a stowaway, a customs officer's niece, a pregnant stewardess, two black GIs, a loudmouthed kid, a henpecked husband, and Dean Martin aboard, right? So obviously the bomber has to be typecast, too.

Heflin sweats, shakes, peers around nervously, clutches his briefcase to his chest, refuses to talk to anybody, and swallows a lot. The customs officer sees him going on the plane and notices "something in his eyes." Also in his ears, nose, and throat. What Heflin does is undermine the structure of the whole movie with a sort of subversive overacting. Once the bomber becomes ridiculous, the movie does, too. That's good, because it never had a chance at being anything else.

Popular Blog Posts

Exploring Israel-Palestine through Movies: Part 1

The first part in a four-part series on what film can teach us about the relationship between Israel and Palestine.

Able-Bodied Actors and Disability Drag: Why Disabled Roles are Only for Disabled Performers

Scott Jordan Harris argues that disabled characters should not be played by able-bodied actors.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

James Garner: 1928-2014

An obituary for the legendary James Garner, who has passed away at the age of 86.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus