Flying High (1980)

Yes, I know that’s not the original title, but in this country we know how to spell “aeroplane” correctly and it will only ever be Flying High to me. But never mind that. This is one of my favourite films, which is why it may seem odd that I’ve never actually owned a copy of it. Never even taped it off TV back in the day or anything. And yet if it’s on TV—as it was tonight—I’ll watch it almost every time. (I have a similar relationship to Blazing Saddles, for what it may or may not be worth.) I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it, but it must be rather a lot, and it stands up well for me after I don’t know how many repeats… The genius of the thing, of course, is the way in which Zucker Abrahams & Zucker cast actors best known for straight roles and got them to play it as straight as they normally would; accordingly, the best thing the film does is reveal the hitherto untapped comedy potential of Leslie Nielsen (who plays straighter than almost anyone else in the film), paving the way for what I’m increasingly sure was the ZAZ team’s masterpiece, the Police Squad TV series. It’s the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, to some extent, something you’ll watch because you’ve seen it often enough that you know what’s going to happen, although in this case it’s been long enough since I did last watch it that I’d forgotten a few of the jokes (particularly the one where you think Robert Stack is looking at himself in the mirror until he moves forward out of the doorway). One of those films that’s just nice to revisit when you want something familiar and unthreatening; delightful to be reacquainted again tonight.

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