Air Speed (1998) – By Charles Rector

 Over the years, a consensus has formed among movie buffs that the 1959 flick “Plan 9 From Outer Space” is the absolute worst movie ever made. So firm is this consensus that a certifiable cult has grown up around both this movie and its writer/director/producer Edward D. Wood, Jr. Wood’s life has been chronicled in books, documentaries and even a feature length film directed by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp playing the awful filmmaker.

Now, however, there is a recent flick that bids well to replace Plan 9 in the Hollywood hall of shame. This is the 1998 movie Air Speed that is a disaster flick in more ways than one. This movie is so goofy that it makes 1980’s “Airplane!” look like a serious drama by comparison.

Elisha Cuthbert stars as Nicole, who is one of the most spoiled rotten brats ever to besmirch the silver screen. Nicole is 13 years old and her proudest achievement in life thus far is the sheer number of elite boarding schools for rich little girls that she’s been kicked out of. She is completely alienated from her parents and for good reason. Her parents care only for making as much money as they can and spend as little time with her as they can.

However, due to her misbehavior, they have arranged for her to come home on their private jet which looks a lot like a large passenger aircraft. She is confined to a huge room that could not possibly fit into even the biggest aircraft known to man. In this room are 2 folks who are best described as Dull Man & Dull Woman, both of whom give the impression that they’d rather be dead than be with Nicole.

As the fickle fingers of Fate would have it, the guys in the cockpit pilot the aircraft straight into a storm just 5 minutes away from the airport. Lightning strikes the plane, sending blue lights that the filmmakers intended to simulate high voltage throughout the plane. Everyone on the plane dies on the spot except for Nicole who is miraculously spared without a scratch. The lightning blows a huge hole on the side of the plane where the room is, yet there is no wind inside the airplane or air suction. Clearly, God is on Nicole’s side.

The guys in what must be the world’s shortest airport control tower are not exactly panicked. The air traffic controller is a Hairy Guy who looks more like a street vagrant than a seasoned professional. Enter the parents who act as if the whole thing is an inconvenience for them. The father is especially pathetic since he acts as if his daughter’s being in mortal peril is no more bothersome to him than if he had been told that his luggage would be delayed a little bit.

Hairy Guy concocts some schemes to rescue Nicole involving a air tanker. In one scheme, the tanker’s arm is to extend into the hole into the stricken aircraft and a guy on the tanker is to walk across the arm like a circus trapeze artist at 20,000 feet or so above the Earth with both planes flying at high rates of speed. Yes, you read that right. When that idea doesn’t work, Hairy Guy comes up with the idea of having Nicole’s plane land on top of the tanker. Yes, you read that right too. Even though the automatic pilot obligingly shut itself down, this gambit fails to work.

The tanker is forced to withdraw due to turbulence and then everything goes wrong. The automatic pilot comes back to life, so poor Nicole can’t continue her flying lessons. The radio and cell phone both go dead, so she can’t talk to Hairy Guy anymore. Then, the air in the plane suddenly realized that when there is a hole in the side of the plane, there is supposed to be air suction and before you know it, one of Nicole’s expensive shoes is flying out into the atmosphere and her hair becomes all messed up.

Now, if this was anything like real life, the throughly unlikeable little brat would get herself killed trying to land the plane. However, this is Hollywood and Nicole is quickly able to solve all her problems simply by banging the controls with a baseball bat. The automatic pilot shuts off and the air suction comes to an end. What happens next should be easily predictable by even the most naive movie fans.

Air Speed is a disaster. Unless, you want to spend your time deciding if this really is worse than Plan 9, avoid it at all costs.