Starring: Seiichi Tanabe, Shinobu Terajima, Haruka Ayase
Director: Shinobu Yaguchi
Running Time: 103 mins
Happy Flight is a Japanese film about two pilots and a team of air hostesses on a flight from Tokyo to Honolulu that goes wrong after a strange malfunction is discovered, plunging everyone on board into a frenzy.
For a film that starts off so poorly, I was really surprised by how much fun I had with Happy Flight in the end. Although it takes a good half hour to really get going, and even then doesn’t pick up for a while, once it’s into its stride of pure farce (and even a little bit of nail-biting excitement), you can have a great time watching this movie, complete with light-hearted direction, entertaining performances and a simple but ultimately effective story.
But first, I need to make a quick, albeit slightly unfair comparison. This film feels so much like Airplane. It’s obviously clear which is the better film, but it’s hard to get through this movie without noticing the numerous similarities to the comedy classic. It’s by no means in the same vein of ingeniously moronic humour, but with a very similar plot and a collection of zany passengers and crew members, you’ll definitely be reminded of that legendary movie.
When it comes to the comedy here, it’s probably the most consistently effective part. That’s not to say it’s particularly hilarious, but even in the film’s less entertaining first and second acts, there are a good few laughs here and there that do add a lot to the fun factor of it all, whilst it really works well in tandem with the excellent finale.
And although none of the humour is especially intelligent or fresh, it’s handled very well throughout, largely thanks to some strong directing by Shinobu Yaguchi. Yes, he doesn’t manage to get the film fully off the ground (excuse the pun) until over half an hour in, but the great thing about Happy Flight is that it’s always as silly and light-hearted as its title suggests, meaning that you can smile your way through even if it’s not the most exhilarating comedy.
What Yaguchi really does well, however, is pull off a surprisingly exciting climax to the movie. Again in similar fashion to Airplane, the film’s finale brings a degree of threat to the table, although Happy Flight goes for more excitement than continuing with pure insanity. However, it really works, and with an impressively detailed and well-explained build-up that’s followed by an action-esque sequence with some strong special effects, I was really surprised to be genuinely invested and excited by this movie.
Along with the direction, the performances go a long way to making this movie as fun as it can be. Seiichi Tanabe and Saburô Tokitô, who play the two pilots, are a fun duo that always make for a good laugh everytime we check in with the cockpit. Meanwhile, the team of air hostesses, led by the fearsome Shinobu Terajima and the bumbling Haruka Ayase, are all smiley and entertaining presences that pull off their roles easily, as well as bringing some good joy to proceedings throughout.
So, this film is light-hearted, fun and ultimately surprisingly investing, even though it takes a little too long to get going. But there is one more rather irritating issue that brings it all down. It feels like an advert for ANA (All Nippon Airways).
Throughout, the ANA logo is constantly thrust in your face as we see how effectively the company’s employees deal with the most difficult situations. Even with a few bumbling characters thrown in there to make it seem a little less dry, too often did I feel like I was watching a propaganda video for the airline, and when you learn that the movie was even funded by ANA, it’s all a little bit frustrating.
That said, I can’t deny that I did have a good time with Happy Flight. First and foremost, it’s a fun and silly comedy movie that takes heavy inspiration from Airplane, only to make a surprisingly entertaining and even exciting, if not slow-burning, watch. And even if it all feels way too much like an advert, there’s still a lot of simple fun to be had here, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2.