Happy December, everyone! In the run up to Christmas, I plan to review several Christmas themed 80’s movies to indulge in in the run up to the festive season. But before I delve into Christmas, I’d like to take a look at one of my favourite holiday movies of all time, as well as one of my favourite movies directed by the late, great John Hughes, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. Although Hughes was better known for his teen comedy flicks (namely “Sixteen Candles”, “The Breakfast Club, and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), “Planes…” was his first attempt to break out of his comfort zone and write more screenplays based around adults.
Set around Thanksgiving, the flick stars Steve Martin as Neal Page, a successful, if somewhat abrasive, advertising executive who simply wants a nice relaxing trip home to Chicago to be with his wife Susan (Lalia Robbins) and his children. Unfortunately, things don’t quite go to plan for Neal, as his plane undergoes a layover in Kansas. What really infuriates Neal is his constant meetings with overly chatty shower curtain ring salesman, Del Griffith (John Candy), especially since Del unwittingly stole Neal’s first taxi cab in New York City.
Neal and Del decide to team up to get to Chicago, but first they have to travel not only via planes, trains, or cars, but on foot and by bus. Amidst all of the wacky hijinks which ensue, will the ill-matched duo ever get home?
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is ultimately my go- to movie to watch around the holidays. In fact, the best part of the movie is seeing Del and Neal grow closer together. Interestingly enough, Hughes mixes up the formula of two oddly matched people being forced together by fate of circumstance by having Neal yell at Del for being irritating come at the beginning of the flick, rather than at the end, so that we’re uncertain about how the events will unfold from this point onwards.
Among some of the movie’s highlights is having Neal flip out at a car rental agent (Edie McClurg) by delivering a rant which features several F-bombs in quick succession (which earned the movie an “R” rating strictly because of this scene), Del and Neal waking up in a motel, wrapped in each other’s arms, dreaming of their wives, complete with the most hysterical payoff imaginable, and Del “doing the mess around” while on driving duty.
In my opinion, Del Griffith is John Candy’s best and most sympathetic role of his career. Despite his relentless chatter and larger than life personality, we gradually learn a lot more about him which only makes him more endearing to the viewer’s eyes. Martin provides a terrific foil as Neal, who gradually allows himself to soften under Del’s influence. The song, “Everytime you go away”, originally by Paul Young, but covered here by “Blue Room”, always brings a tear to my eye, when it’s featured in the touching final scene.
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” earns the full distinction of 5 out of 5 stars. It may not be regarded as Hughes’ best movie, but to me, it’s certainly his most warm, sentimental film. If you’re interested in finding out more facts regarding this holiday flick, then tune in to vlogger “The Nostalgia Critic”‘s video “What you never knew about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. It also inspired the good, if more foul mouthed, Robert Downey Junior movie “Due Date”.