After the events of the original film, Ted Striker (Robert Hays) became a moon pilot but was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum (named after Ronald Reagan) following a major screw-up, while the love of his life, the beautiful Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty) is a stewardess aboard the maiden commercial space shuttle flight to the Moon.
A faulty computer sends the craft hurtling towards the Sun. Luckily a passenger (Sonny Bono) had the foresight to bring along a bomb in a briefcase. But who can bring the craft down? Guess who?
The problem is that Airplane! did not need a sequel. The original’s freshness was bound to be lost – and was.
Many gags are recycled; the hysterical woman being slapped by a long line of people, the ‘what is it?’ exchanges, McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges) leaning on his desk and mimicking the pose on the picture behind him, someone throwing away a cigarette and causing an explosion etc.
But there are some clever new gags; the poster for the in-flight movie is Rocky XXXVIII starring an elderly Sly Stallone in boxing gloves; a topical gag has E.T. trying to phone home and getting trouble from the operator; an elevator plays MacArthur Park incredibly loudly; Stryker escapes from the asylum and a searchlight picks out Jack Jones singing the theme from The Love Boat; a dog-owning family is told that ‘Scraps’ must have his shots, and then the customs officer pulls out a gun and shoots the animal, and a boy plays with a computer navigation system thinking it to be a game and almost kills all the passengers on an aeroplane.
William Shatner hams it up wonderfully as the Commander of Moonbase Alpha Beta (a reference to Space: 1999), and the presence of Peter Graves (once more as Captain Oveur) allows for a dig at Mission: Impossible.
Funniest moment – McCroskey shouts Striker’s surname and a man, misunderstanding him, punches a woman.
Airplane III was threatened but mercifully did not materialise.
Captain Clarence Oveur
Navigator Dave Unger
First Officer Dunn
James A Watson Jr
Commander Buck Mordock
Judge D C Simonton
Bud Kruger/President Reagan