[In theaters and Video on Demand.] ••• YouTube star Logan Paul assembled so many fellow YouTube stars to make “Airplane Mode” that it would be genuinely impressive if they were anyone but YouTube stars. Like, if you got this many famous actors or singers or athletes together? That would be amazing. Video bloggers? Eh. The question isn’t how they did it but why.
“Airplane Mode,” filmed in 2016 and only now getting released, is a pretty bad spoof comedy starring Paul as a version of himself — that is to say, a famous internet douche — who’s en route to a social media convention when he’s called upon to help land the plane because the pilots have died. Many, many other internet celebs appear in the film, a few basically playing themselves but most in other roles, sprinkled throughout as airport employees, passengers, and so forth.
(Would it help if I listed some of them? Fine: Juanpa Zurita, Chloe Bridges, Amanda Cerny, Arielle Vandenberg, David Dobrik, Nick Bateman, Andrew Bachelor, Casey Neistat, Anwar Jibawi, Lele Pons, Jake Brennan, Curtis Lepore, Paige Ginn, Kyle Lamar Myers.)
Given the do-it-yourself, gatekeeper-free methods these young folks have used to achieve fame, it is unsurprising that their individual talent levels range from promising to abysmal. The screenplay is credited to Paul, his brother Jake Paul, and the film’s directors, David Dinetz and Dylan Trussell, but it has the slapdash vibe (not altogether unwelcome) of a free-wheeling ensemble comedy where the performers brought their own material. Russian prankster Vitaly Zdorovetskiy has manic charisma as the film’s villain, and Antoine Dodson (the “hide yo kids, hide yo wife” guy) made me laugh as a TSA agent who wants to X-ray Logan’s pet bird (“I don’t know if that bird’s a terrorist!”). There are two other random, surreal gags that also amused me, one involving termites, the other a talking bottle of lotion.
Unfortunately, Logan Paul is not among those who demonstrate comic timing or acting ability. Comedywise, he is the sort of frantic flailer who falls over backward in his chair when someone walks in on his character being naughty on a computer. Whatever it is that has made him a popular YouTuber is not captured in the film (unless it’s his body, which is constantly on display because the movie he co-wrote keeps finding excuses for him to take his pants off). He comes across as arrogant and unpleasant. There are two gay characters whose only comic purpose in the movie is to hit on Logan, who can barely contain his disgust at the idea, har har.
But don’t worry, there’s also some racism, as when a TSA agent looks at an Arab passenger and says, “I have 911 reasons not to trust him.” The passenger is played by one of the YouTubers, Anwar Jibawi; for all I know, jokes about being mistaken for a terrorist are part of his shtick. But it doesn’t read that way in the film. It reads as ugly, sour, low-hanging fruit.
Comedian Nick Swardson, perhaps the most legitimately famous person in the cast, plays a passenger who steals someone’s baby and nurses it with his own squirting breasts. We may think that as a society we have done nothing to deserve the image of a lactating Nick Swardson, but we are fooling ourselves. This is who we are.
D+ (1 hr., 20 min.; )