Modern classics: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I love Steve Martin, and I love John Hughes. Why had I never seen Planes, Trains and Automobiles until last year?

This film is one of those comedies in which everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Martin stars as Neal Page, a man who is desperate to get home in time for Thanksgiving.

He struggles to get a cab, but finally makes it to the airport, only to find that a huge storm in his hometown of Chicago has led to the delay or cancellation of most of the flights. He must try every method of transport available to find his way home.

(Image via tribute.ca)

(Image via tribute.ca)

His journey is further complicated by the constant presence of Del Griffith (John Candy), a quirky (and, to Neal, somewhat obnoxious) man who stole his cab.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles was directed by John Hughes. The script was written by Hughes as well.

It’s easy to find the humor in situations gone awry, especially when those situations are fairly common to the human experience. Holiday travel rarely, if ever, goes smoothly, and while our travels may not be quite as disaster-ridden as Neal’s, his frustration is easy to relate to. I’m excited to visit family in Tennesee this week, but dreading the process of getting there!

Some of the humor is very silly (Del waking up with his hand “between two pillows,” for example), but the film gave me a lot of laughs despite these not-quite-my-taste moments. Neal seeing Del in a devil suit as they drive on the wrong side of the highway is a highlight, as is Neal attempting to lead the bus in a rendition of “Three Coins in the Fountain.”

I’m glad to be able to remove Planes, Trains and Automobiles from my list of “blindspot” films. I didn’t love it quite as much as I expected to, and I know this opinion will be controversial — many movie buffs regard this film as one of Hughes’ best. Personally, it isn’t my favorite from his filmography. It is a very enjoyable film, however, with two strong lead performances by John Candy and Steve Martin, who make a fantastic comedic screen pair.

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