Easily excitable marketing account executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) is somewhat of a control freak. Trying to get home to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his wife (Laila Robins) and kids, his flight is rerouted to a distant city in Kansas because of a freak snowstorm, and his sanity begins to fray. Worse yet, he is forced to bunk up with talkative shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy), whom he finds extremely annoying. Together they must overcome the insanity of holiday travel to reach their intended destination.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian followers! I hope you all have a wonderful day filled with love, family, and tons of great food whether it be a delicious turkey, ham, or anything else. I am eternally grateful for all of you out there. But even if you are in the United States and you’re not celebrating Thanksgiving today, I still want you to know how grateful I am for you.
When it comes to movies that I have seen more times than I can honestly count, National Lampoon’s Vacation and its eventual follow-up Christmas Vacation are right up there for sure, but John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles is also up at the top. I think I’ve seen all three of these films about the same amount of times. I don’t watch them just because I’m bored and want something to watch. I watch them because I genuinely regard them as some of the best comedies ever made.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is without a doubt one of the most wholesome movies ever made, and it isn’t all that surprising when you realize that the late great John Hughes wrote and directed it. It’s brimming with amazing humor, excellent comedic timing from both Steve Martin and John Candy, an incredibly tight and fast-paced script, wonderful cinematography, and some seriously hard-hitting emotional beats.
The first time I saw this film was when I was a small child and I remember thinking it was one of the best things I have ever seen. I absolutely adored the dynamic between the two lead characters Neal Page and Del Griffith even if I was too young to understand certain foreshadowing moments and some of the emotional moments. All that mattered back then was that it made me laugh and each time I watched it, it seemed like it got even funnier.
All these years later though, when I rewatch the movie, it feels so much better. I appreciate the humor even more in particular, though. This is a highly regarded movie, but even still I feel as though the script for the movie is a little bit underrated. It’s seriously mind-boggling for me to comprehend how genius the writing on display in Planes, Trains and Automobiles is.
Throughout the movie, Neal Page seemingly cannot get away from Del Griffith no matter how hard he may try. Del accidentally steals Neal’s taxi at the beginning of the film, and it doesn’t take long for them to meet up again. When Neal is trying to relax at the airport, he notices that the man sitting right in front of him is none other than the man who stole his taxi not too long ago.
Little did Neal know that from that moment, he would go on a chaotic but soulful journey with Del across the country in an effort to return home. Neal doesn’t hate Del at all, but he finds him incredibly annoying. He can’t stop telling Neal stories that he finds rather boring and pointless. To Neal, all Del can do is mess up and get on his nerves.
For a while, he fails to recognize that Del is honestly a great guy with a heart of gold, despite the fact that he can be a bit talkative. As the movie progresses and as we and Neal get to see who Del really is, the story becomes much more poignant, hilarious, and powerful. The ending of this film will simply never not make me tear up. It’s a result of amazing writing, great foreshadowing, and a sweet display of the strength of family and friendship.
But let’s be honest – one of the biggest reasons as to why the movie is as great as it is is due to the absolutely hysterical but also layered performances from both Steve Martin and the late great John Candy. When it comes to cinematic duos, it honestly doesn’t get a whole lot better than these two.
The way they work off of one another is infectious to watch. The two were a comedic dream team. Every single time these two actors were on screen together, which is practically the entire movie, I had a humongous smile on my face that was seemingly impossible to erase. Martin does a brilliant job of portraying an average family man desperate to get home for Thanksgiving to spend time with his wife and kids that also happens to be in the center of a ton of chaos in the process.
Candy on the other hand portrays an extremely hilarious and charismatic shower curtain ring salesman that may be talkative and annoying to the people around him, but at the end of the day, has a gigantic heart and an infectiously uplifting presence.
All of these ingredients come together to make what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest movies ever made. Hughes gets a ton of credit for his other works such as the aforementioned Vacation movies, The Breakfast Club, and Sixteen Candles, and while all of those movies are absolutely wonderful, I will always have a special place in my heart for Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Steve Martin and John Candy are a comedic dream team in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, an incredibly hilarious and brilliantly written comedy masterpiece.
Overall Grade: A+
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: John Hughes
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: November 25, 1987
Running Time: 92 minutes