Movie Review: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Comedy


Cosmetics consultant Neal Page (Steve Martin) is on his way from New York to Chicago, on a business trip, when he loses a cab to shower ring salesman Del Griffith, (John Candy) They meet again at the airport, and share a coach flight to Chicago.  The flight never makes it to Chicago, the plane gets stranded in Wichita, the hotels are booked up , but Del has a friend with a seedy motel in Wichita, so they spend the night in a single bed together.  That’s when Neal discovers Del’s annoying habits, he likes to eat, and read in bed and likes to decongest himself.  After realizing that planes were not flying out of Wichita, Neal and Del try to take a train out of Kansas.  After a few miles, the train starts bellowing black smoke.  The two split up only to reunite in a rental car, which Del drives the wrong way, and burns to a crisp.  Will Neal ever make it to New York?  More importantly, will Neal ever be able to ditch Del?

This is not the best movie structurally; it’s fairly predictable that the pair will continue to meet no matter how many times they go their separate ways.  The ending is fairly predictable too, and not exactly the best way to end a comedy like this one.  Despite all of its short comings, this movie works, because of its two stars.  John Candy is impossible not to like, as the anecdote telling, quick with a laugh, smooth talking shower curtain ring salesman.  Steve Martin is also funny as the tightly wound businessman, who only wants to attend to his business trip and get home to his family.  At every turn he meets this bumbling oaf, and he desperately tries to get rid of him, but can’t.  It is these two performances that make the movie rise above the average buddy comedy.  It makes me sad to see Candy so vivacious and quick with a joke, so shortly before his death in 1994.  This was his best film role.  John Hughes directed and wrote this movie and although he’s better known for his teen angst movies, like Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, and Some Kind of Wonderful, I prefer his comedies, like Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and this movie.  The teen angst movies overshadowed Hughes’ comedic talents, but his comedies were quite funny, if somewhat formulaic.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles.  Worth the trip.


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