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The Big Bus  

Review: written 2007

The ride of your life!

Before there was “Airplane!”, there was... The Big Bus.

In fact, it was three years before Airplane that this prototype disaster movie spoof appeared, directed by James Frawley who also directed `The Muppet Movie'. Although similar in tone, the humour is less one liner and more atmosphere driven - and on the whole works. OK, it's a bit hit and miss, and it's clear why `Airplane!' is so much better known -but this movie definitely does not deserve to be forgotten.

First there's that high concept idea - a nuclear powered bus on its maiden transcontinental journey, beset by sabotage and a driver who has a reputation as partial cannibal and a co-driver prone to blackouts ("it's ok, it's only when on the move").

Then there's the characters - Father Kudos (Rene Auberjonois, LONG before his Star Trek Deep Space 9 days) who is having an Exorcist-like faith crisis, the couple who are celebrating their divorce, the man with 6 months to live who argues in the lounge with the failed vet over who understands bitterness the most... and of course, that ever cheerful lounge piano player who smiles and sings at whatever comes his way. Robert Bologna and Stockard Channing headline, in extremely similar roles to the pilot and stewardess from Airplane!. Even smaller roles are filled by well known names - Ned Beatty, Jose Ferrer (the man in the iron lung, masterminding the demise of the bus at the behest of the oil industry..).

And then of course one cannot forget that wonderful bus! The size.. the bad 70's taste décor.. the gadgets! One moment encapsulates the humour the movie is aiming at - with the bus building speed and the brakes failing, the driver suddenly has a brainwave.. the flags of all nations! A button is pressed, and up come the fluttering flags from the roof, helping slow the bus down. Or perhaps it’s the bar fight spoofing West Side story when someone shouts “Look out! He's got a broken milk carton!” as the man (John Beck, as `Shoulders' O'Brien) says “I hate to see a man down when he's kicked'. OK, I take it back, there isn’t one moment – it’s full of them.

The wonderful thing about the humour is that it parodies a genre without concentrating too much on parodies of specific movies, the way modern day spoofs so often do.

In short, it isn't subtle, it's certainly over the top, it's as hammy as the lead actors name suggests, and its aged.. but if you have a funny bone, this should tickle it.

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