Ted: "What is it?"
Boy: "It's an interrogative form of sentence, used to test knowledge. But that's not important right now."
The phenomenal success of Airplane! (re-titled Flying High! in Australia) was the outcome of the sheer comedic brilliance of the talented "ZAZ" trio (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker). A spoof of the old 1950s disaster movies, the ZAZ trio reinvented spoof films and became the new luminaries of the genre: taking the crown that was previously secured by Mel Brooks. Needless to say, the success that the original enjoyed was going to be exploited in the form of a sequel. Initially, the ZAZ trio were anticipated to return for the sequel, but balked at the idea at a later date. Despite their endless protesting, the studio went ahead without their permission and green-lit Airplane II: The Sequel (the Australian title became Flying High II: The Sequel).
The ZAZ trio resisted much financial temptation in their refusal to work on a sequel to their 1980 brainchild. After all, they squeezed basically every airport/airplane related joke they could into the first film and by the end had gags so abundant that they could have sufficiently filled three movies! Unfortunately, with the ZAZ trio stepping away, the task of writing and directing for Airplane II: The Sequel fell into the hands of Ken Finkleman. This guy had never done anything remotely noteworthy apart from writing a few episodes of the Dick Van Dyke show in the 70s and (*ahem*) Grease 2. This sequel is not so much a sequel - it's a mediocre rehash of the original movie that largely recycles a lot of the same gags, with the superior laughs disappearing pretty quickly. Finkleman is no ZAZ member; hence the gags he supplies cannot even come close to the quality or quantity of those from the first film. The original trio not being involved becomes pretty evident extremely quickly.
Despite the ZAZ trio giving up their participation with this film, most of the original cast returned to reprise their roles. The only notable exclusion is dear old Leslie Nielson. This guy basically carried the first film and it's disappointing that he didn't return (although the ZAZ trio were grateful for his respect and loyalty, and rewarded him when casting commenced for their succeeding movies, most notably The Naked Gun).
Because the original creative team weren't involved, this sequel shouldn't be judged as a follow-up to the brilliant first movie but rather an alternate reading: containing the same situations, same gags and fundamentally the same major plot points. The plot here is essentially identical to the first film, except the setting has been changed to a space ship. Years have passed since Ted Striker (Hays) heroically saved the lives of many airplane passengers in the events of the first movie, and now his life has been turned upside down again. He is sent to a mental ward after he was blamed for an accident that occurred when he was piloting a Lunar Shuttle that was in fact the consequence of the badly-constructed navigational computer. Now another shuttle is being launched into space and Ted must overcome his inadequacies and former girlfriend to save those aboard the shuttle before it crashes into the sun.
Okay, so the jokes are seemingly more of the same and hence more predictable...but at least they're hilarious at times. The first 20 minutes contain all the best quality gags: some shots even containing 3 or 4 running simultaneously. The final hour unfortunately isn't as strong, with the gags growing monotonous and predictable. There are only a few laughs during this segment that are worth noting. The gags also aren't as memorable. After you finish the movie you will be unable to recall many instances that made you laugh.
Overall, Airplane II: The Sequel is not nearly as brilliant as its forerunner...in fact it's not even close! The original charm has been lost, and ultimately relies too frequently on recycling gags that were used previously in the first movie. Still, despite these flaws...it will certainly make for entertaining viewing on a boring afternoon. What can I say? Some of the laughs are still good quality (both sight gags as well as witty dialogue), and I laughed 'til I cried. It even contains one of the best sight gags in history! (I'm referring to William Shatner's introductory scene)