The Big Bus Reviews
April 15, 2010
Very much a mixed bag with a lot of talented performers trapped in this scattershot mess. Tries to lampoon the disaster movie craze and scores occasionally but mostly of the jokes fall flat.
November 18, 2008
If you were alive and kicking in 1976, the topical humor in this movie will leave you on the floor laughing your lungs out. If you weren't around in 1976, you'll still get a big laugh even if you don't "get it."
September 20, 2008
This movie is absurd and it is absurdly funny. It has no serious moments and is a spoof that you can really enjoy. Take a chill pill and sit down and enjoy it.
April 25, 2007
Take well known stars of the late 70's and make a movie about the biggest bus ever made, and combine with a maiden road trip that leads to all sorts of problems along the way.
February 14, 2007
I remember my mother getting this movie instead of Big Business with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin. This movie was freakin' awful.
May 18, 2014
D.C. must have been the one city this very funny but sloppy film was popular in. I saw it quite a few times in packed houses and remember being really surprised to learn that it flopped like a big old dog on the front porch everywhere else. The terrific cast helps a lot.
October 16, 2012
Schlocky and tries too hard to be funny. I can think of nothing memorable about it except that it fit the mid-seventies mold for "funny movie". zzzzzzz
TunnelVision and Kentucky Fried Movie started the new funny. This was the opposite.
August 2, 2012
A grossly unsuccessful spoof of the disaster genré with a talented cast doing their best with a ridiculously unfunny script.
April 17, 2012
I know this movie gets a pretty bad rap. I actually like the film because it is fairly pioneering. This was made pre Airplane and you have to admit that there are a few similarities. Not better than Airplane or even close to that level of comedy but this movie was simply ahead of its time.
December 19, 2011
This big budget spoof of irwin Allen films had a great 70's cast. Joe Bologna was a decent stand-in for Pacino... or so that's how it struck me. Jose Ferrer, Stockard Channing, and Lynn Redgrave were especially good in their respective roles
October 25, 2010
A fun film, it got some funny moments.
February 17, 2008
A pre Airplane! mock of disaster films, similar in style but no as funny, but The Big Bus does have some very funny scenes. Great cast with a wide variety of stars hamming it up.
April 12, 2007
I'd never heard of [i]The Big Bus[/i] until I was, well, looking through the library's catalog under "b." I think I was better off; I might as well have just watched [i]Airplane![/i] again. It's substantially better. In fact, [i]The Big Bus[/i] seems to be [i]Airplane![/i]'s poor cousin.
Part of it is the cast. [i]Airplane![/i] has a better cast. Sure, it was Julie Delpy's first role, but she did go on to a whole bunch of bizarre guest spots, including the obligatory stopover in the [i]Law & Order[/i] franchise. (It's your turn, Stockard Channing!) However, the Zucker-Abrams-Zucker policy of "find really famous people and make them do really bizarre stuff" worked for them on a level that the makers of [i]The Big Bus[/i] couldn't hope to emulate.
Also, [i]Airplane![/i] is funnier. Or, you know, funny. While [i]The Big Bus[/i] has a few bright spots, and is certainly worth watching if you're a spoof afficionado, it's not all that good. Though Rene Auberjonois as the priest who's lost his faith is almost worth watching the movie for.
So as we all know, the best character--or anyway the weirdest!--in [i]Airplane![/i] is Johnny, the weird guy in air traffic control. According to the film's trivia track, they didn't really bother scripting him. They just kind of told him where the scene was going and let him at it. This gave way to the classic line about the plane looking like a big Tylenol, I guess.
And, of course, there's Leslie Nielsen. Up until this film, he'd been a serious actor. The folks at ZAZ wanted dramatic actors for as many roles as possible, because it makes the movie funnier. And Leslie Nielsen went along with it and hasn't looked back; he wasn't getting good dramatic roles anymore, because he was starting to look like someone's grandfather. Lloyd Bridges went along for the ride with him, too.
So if you're going to watch one, watch [i]Airplane![/i] However, if you've got the spare time, [i]The Big Bus[/i] isn't bad.
May 2, 2006
Film history has always had a place for trilogies, from the art house (The Apu Trilogy, Kiezlowski's [i]Three Colors[/i] Trilogy) to the fanboy (The [i]Star Wars[/i] and [i]Lord of the Rings[/i] trilogies) to the Paul Hogan (The[i] "Crocodile" Dundee[/i] Trilogy). It seems as though for a filmmaker to really get into a subject, he or she has to make three films about it, thus cementing them as the go-to director of reference for whatever subject it may be.
For James Frawley, that subject was transportation. 1976's [i]The Big Bus[/i] marked Frawley's first attempt at exploring the way we move from place to place, a film he quickly followed with the similarly road-themed [i]The Muppet Movie[/i] and [i]The Great American Traffic Jam,[/i] a deconstruction of the road film in that the characters don't go anywhere. Sadly, Frawley's "Transportation Trilogy" was ignored by critics at the time, who dismissed his works as mere popcorn fodder, citing the presence of Robbie Rist in Traffic Jam as "indicative of something that has no value to humanity whatsoever."
It wasn't until 2006, when a blogger on a well-known movie review website rediscovered Frawley's works, that the "Transportation Trilogy" became common knowledge amongst the cinephelia elite. The first review, of[i] The Big Bus[/i], became a hallmark of blog reviewing, giving the Trilogy its' name and being so well-crafted that you barely noticed that it was referencing itself in the past tense for three paragraphs before even mentioning anything about the film, wasting readers' valuable time and bandwidth with half-assed postmodernism in a desperate attempt to come up with an opening.
[i]The Big Bus[/i] is a parody of disaster films at the time, and if you've seen a disaster film before (or even [i]Airplane!,[/i] which followed this by three years), you can pretty much figure out what to expect. This time the mode of newfangled-thing-that-hasn't-been-properly-tested-and-may-be-sabotaged-and-could-endanger-the-lives-of-everyone-inside-it is a nuclear-powered bus, making its' maiden voyage from New York to Denver.
At the helm is ex-bus driver Joseph Bologna, who's been the disgrace of the profession ever since he was caught eating a passenger's foot. He's hired as a last resort for bus company owner (and ex-girlfriend) Stockard Channing, whose scientist father (Harold Gould) gets a watch stuck in him at the beginning of the film, placing him under care of doctor Larry Hagman. The professor's cigar-chomping team leader (Ned Beatty) watches from the headquarters, berating his assistant (Howard Hesseman) and trying to stop a possible sabotage from rival Jose Ferrer.
The bus itself is equipped with plenty of entertainment options, all amusingly squished into the size of, well, an oversized bus. There's a one-lane bowling alley, a pool, a dining hall and everything you'd expect to find in a luxury yacht, only with minimal space in between them. This leads the passengers to spend most of the running time crawling over each other, which manages to be funnier than it sounds.
It helps that the cast is full of comedic pros. In addition to the aforementioned folks in charge, we get Sally Kellerman and Richard Mulligan as a bickering almost-divorced couple that keeps yelling at each other before making out, Lynn Redgrave as the daughter of the man whose foot Bologna consumed, Ruth Gordon as the same amusing old lady she played in every film in the '70s, Richard B. Shull as a guy with a fatal disease, Rene Auberjonois as a pastor who's lost his faith and yells at Ruth Gordon because she doesn't have a window seat, Vic Tayback as a bus driver, and Bob Dishy as an outcast veterinarian. They're all relatively amusing, though Kellerman and Mulligan have the best chemistry.
[i]The Big Bus's[/i] obvious comparison is to [i]Airplane!,[/i] and while Bus falls short of the Zuckers' gag rate of one joke every ten seconds or so with a surprisingly high rate of success, it's certainly fun enough on its' own. While plenty of Bus's gags don't work well, at least there's enough of them to make it entertaining, and it doesn't rely on repeating the same gag over and over again.
The thing is, it's not quite gag-oriented. Airplane! works beautifully because none of the cast acts as though they're in on the joke, giving all their dialogue with the utmost seriousness. [i]The Big Bus[/i] doesn't quite do that, with a couple of the performances and relationships sticking out like a sore, too self-aware thumb, like the bits with Ned Beatty and Howard Hesseman. They'd be amusing on their own, but it's more situational relationship humor than gag humor, and it makes the film feel, while not bad, just a little off.
That said, [i]The Big Bus[/i] is still loads of fun, especially if you're a fan of disasted films (which I am) or '70s character actors (ditto), as both get the royal treatment here. It may be less than [i]Airplane!-[/i]level hysteria at times, but it's never dull, and it's great to see a parody film that never resorts to sad, self-referential humor, or worse, sad, self-referential humor that openly notes how sad its' own self-referential humor is out of a hope that pointing out its' own flaws negates them, like a certain review I could mention.