Planes, Trains and Automobiles

planes_trains_and_automobilesYear: 1987

Synopsis: On his way home for Thanksgiving from New York, the high strung marketing exec Neal Page (Steve Martin) crosses paths with seemingly polar opposite salesman Del Griffith (John Candy), and the two share a surreal odyssey back to Chicago.

Pros:
• Martin and Candy make a perfect odd couple, while not falling into any cliche.
• A near perfect reinvention of the road-trip film that stands on its own today.
• Comedically plays with the primal fears of worst-case-scenario travel.
• Hearing Steve Martin spewing F-bombs.
• Interesting to compare certain elements of the film to today, and how the film might play out differently in 2018. Taxi vs Uber, payphone vs cellphone, credit card vs mobile pay app, paper rental agreement vs emailed/digital rental agreement.

Cons:
• Though it overall shifts seamlessly, the more dramatic elements sometimes seem at odds with the films comedic nature.

Discussion:
John Hughes’ seemed to be on a mission to reinvent the comedy genre. Many of his films are iconic today, whether he directed them or not, and John Candy was a major part of that. Candy almost always played a truly amiable character, but he could do it with such depth that we understand why we love watching him. Hughes simply knew he could rely on Candy to be the flawed heart of a film. As Del Griffith, Candy played an amiable yet annoying character with a distinct mystery not fully revealed until the end, making us feel for him just that much more. That is not to say the Steve Martin’s Neal was not also a strong and layered character. Neal was a truly good person deep down, but all he thought he wanted was to go home to his family, shielding himself desperately with barf bags to ignore all others. He had forgotten that others mattered, and Del reminded him of the compassion he had, intentionally or no. All that in a film perfectly packaged in the laughing horror that can be holiday travel.


Rotten Tomatoes — 92%

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