Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Posted: November 21, 2018 in Movies


Recently I had the pleasure of watching Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Sit down. I had never seen this classic until a few weeks ago. To add insult to that travesty I had no idea it was directed by one of my fave writer/directors John Hughes. Can you believe it? The film hit U.K. screens in 1988 and obviously I was aware of it being a much loved comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy but it just did not appeal to me. Part of me now thinks, now that I have seen it, I didn’t deserve to because of my “meh” ‘tude towards it over the years. I am sorry. This film is great.

Martin stars as Neal Page. He’s a wound up business man who is trying to get from New York to Chicago so he can spend Thanksgiving with him family. All he has to do is make sure he catches his flight in order to be back home by nine that evening. Giving him and his family plenty of time to get ready for the big holiday and relax. Everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Mostly down to a mix of Page’s crappy attitude and the arrival into his life of traveling salesman Del Griffith, played by the great John Candy. Griffith is in the same boat as Page. So together they set out to get back to their families whichever way they can.

So yeah for those of you who have seen this film you’ll know what I mean when I say I was not expecting that gut punch during the third act of the film. It takes the film from a fun and well made holiday comedy into a whole new level. That’s the magic of John Hughes and his writing. He is able to nail the emotional depths of characters while at the same time delivering really well done comedy flicks. There are a ton of laugh out loud moments in this movie. Not because what is happening is so over the top but because the situations the characters are in are relatable. As one issue with transport after another smacks our leads across the head we can see ourselves mirriored in Page’s frustration at these obstacles or on the flip in Griffith’s optimism. Steve Martin and John Candy both putting in excellent performences.

A lot of the comedy and the conflict in the film comes from how Page and Griffith are very different. Both have different outlooks on life and this contrast is the cause of some great scenes. We all know someone who is probably too laid back and also someone else who gets wound up to quickly over crap they have no control over. Putting two folks like that together and keeping them together makes for a great movie. Will they get home to their families? Will they become friends or will they end up driving one another crazy?

Planes, Trains & Automobiles is a brilliant holiday movie and is right up there with Home Alone and Gremlins are required autumn holiday viewing. The movie is one of John Hughes best too. I am just sad it took me so long to check it out.



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