Starring: Joseph Bologna, Stockard Channing, John Beck
Director: James Frawley
Running Time: 88 mins
The Big Bus is an American film about the journey of the first ever nuclear-powered bus as it makes a nonstop trip from New York to Denver, Colorado. However, the unprecedented journey is plagued by disaster and chaos right from the start.
Airplane! was an unprecedented, original and now legendary breath of fresh air in comedy, right? Well, as deservedly acclaimed as the Zuckers’ hilarious parody is, The Big Bus predates it by four years, and perhaps merits a little more credit for the development of Airplane!.
Poking fun at the big, star-studded disaster films that were all the rage in the early 1970s, The Big Bus is everything that we love Airplane! for, apart from one simple thing: it really isn’t that funny. As much as this film could and probably should be credited for being a real breath of fresh air into comedy at the time, it doesn’t ever really feel like it, failing to hit the mark with its parody humour, and instead coming off as a rather messy and unfortunately boring watch.
There are going to be a lot of comparisons to Airplane! here, but the main difference between the two films is that Airplane! is delightfully and confidently anarchic in every way, whereas The Big Bus doesn’t quite have enough in its pipes to really break out and mock the disaster movie formula at every second.
There are fun, silly jokes throughout, and the film does well with its hyper-exaggerated disaster premise, as well as featuring an immense cast of stereotypical, one-dimensional personalities on board the bus, but The Big Bus still feels like a disaster movie, with too much time spent on developing the characters in the early stages, and far too much action throughout.
Too much character development is not a criticism I have with many films, but when you’re making a parody intended to be as plainly ridiculous as this, the focus should be entirely on making the viewer laugh, as is the case with Airplane!, a film which crams as many idiotic gags and mick-takes of the disaster genre and all film in general into every single frame.
There’s never a dull moment in Airplane!, and that’s not because its story is a thrilling rollercoaster, but simply because it’s so jam-packed with hilarious comedy. The Big Bus, on the other hand, while it does feature the odd chuckle, loses confidence in its brand of humour on a regular basis and attempts to recover the viewer with more story, more characters, and more action, which just isn’t what it should be all about.
Effectively, what I’m saying is that this film should be wall-to-wall comedy, and even if that humour isn’t as hilarious as can be, it would have been better to see the film go mad with moderately funny comedy than lose confidence and try to revert to a more normal and generic style, which is why I’m giving The Big Bus a 6.0 overall.