I recorded the 1980 film, The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark, off of TCM because I looked at the title and the fact that it starred Elliott Gould and I figured that it would be a film about an expedition to recover the actual Noah’s Ark. I figured that it would feature scenes of Elliott Gould and Christopher Plummer (who I just assumed would be in the movie) climbing Mount Ararat and having comical disagreements about all of the snow. I also assumed that the movie would end with the real Noah’s Ark sliding down the mountain while Gould and Plummer tried to steer it.
Seriously, it sounded like fun!
Of course, it turned out that I was wrong.
It turns out that The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark is about an out-of-work pilot named Noah Dugan (Elliott Gould) who has a gambling problem and owes a lot of money to the mob. Normally, you’d be worried that this means Dungan has a contract out on his life but instead, it just means that a bald guy named Benchley (Dana Elcar) keeps popping up and saying that Dugan’s got a week to come up with the money.
Since this film was made before our current socialist moment, Dugan is forced to get a job. Unfortunately, the only one that he can get involves flying a missionary (Genevieve Bujold) and a bunch of animals to a South Pacific island. Dugan agrees but, because the plane is an old World War II bomber, he ends up having to make an emergency landing on a remote and uncharted desert isle.
Of course, it quickly turns out that Dugan, the missionary, and the animals aren’t alone! First off, it turns out that two orphans (played by Ricky Schroder and Tammy Lauren) stowed away on the airplane. And then, we discover that there are two Japanese soldiers stranded on the island as well! They’ve been there since World War II! Fortunately, one of them is named Cleveland (John Fukioka) and can speak English.
(As for Christopher Plummer, he’s nowhere to be seen because he’s not in the movie.)
Anyway, can you guess what happens? If you think that Noah and the gang turn the plane into a big boat, you’re on the right track. If you think that cynical Noah turns out to actually have a soft spot when it comes to children, you’re right. If you think that Noah and the missionary embark on the most chaste romance in movie history …. oh my God, have you seen this movie before!?
Here’s the thing with The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark — the animals are cute. I mean, the animals really are adorable. There’s this one duck who has more screen presence than every human in this movie. And normally, I’d say that cute animals can save just about any movie but this might be the exception to the rule.
I mean, I get it. This was a movie for kids and that’s great. But my God, this is a slow movie. We start with Dugan getting threatened by the gamblers and then it’s another 25 minutes before Dugan even starts the engine on that plane. I get that this is a family film but I imagine that even families in 1980 would have been bored to death by it. Elliott Gould certainly seems to be bored, as he gives a performance that all but screams, “Where’s my paycheck!?”
What would have improved The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark?
Christopher Plummer, dammit.