PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 25 November 2012



No holiday movies would ever be complete without a special mention to John Hughes' buddy-comedy classic, PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES. Prior to this movie, Hughes is best known for his defining teen genre in the '80s by the likes of SIXTEEN CANDLES, THE BREAKFAST CLUB and FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF. PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES marked his first foray into adult comedy. A radical departure, indeed but Hughes manages to hit (almost) all the right buttons here.

The story goes like this: Ad marketing executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) is trying to beat the New York rush-hour traffic in hope to get home in time for Thanksgiving with his family at Chicago. But he's already stuck with the first mishap when he fails to get a cab ride after a despicable stranger (a young Kevin Bacon, in a cameo) beats him first in a race to get the vacant cab found in the midst of the heavy traffic. Neal's bad luck just keeps on coming when he fails to get the next cab after a fat guy snatched the ride that Neal had bought from an attorney just before.

Despite that, Neal manages to arrive at the airport just in time to catch the plane, only to find that his flight has been delayed. From there, he stumbles upon the same fat guy again, whose name is Del Griffith (John Candy), a shower-curtain ring salesman. Hours later, Neal manages to board the plane and coincidentally ends up sitting next to Del again. Things goes from bad to worse when the flight forced to detour to Wichita, Kansas due to severe snowstorm. This is where Neal's worst nightmare trip of his life begins with Del no matter where he goes.

Such concept is a novel idea, and Hughes is certainly have a blast making fun of the horrors of transportation in America (which is actually based on his own personal experience). The movie is benefited from many well-timed hilarious scenes (two memorable highlights -- Neal's dissatisfaction with a car rental agent, played by Edie McClurg, after he finds his rental car is not designated in the expected spot -- "You can start by wiping that f**king dumbass smile off your rosy f**king cheeks. Then you can give me a f**king automobile. A f**king Datsun, a f**king Toyota, a f**king Mustang, a f**king Buick — 4 f**king wheels and a seat!". The other one involves Del doesn't realize he's actually driving at the wrong side of the highway). Hughes' direction is mostly impeccable, that blends well with character-driven drama and outrageous comedy. Then, somewhere towards the restrained finale, he manages to slip in a last-minute touching twist without being out of the place.

Both Steve Martin and John Candy made a terrific pair together. They are funny all right, but what makes them really involving is the way they develop their caricatures-free characters into fully-formed individuals we can identify for. Martin is perfectly cast as a straight man with an uptight attitude, while Candy excels with one of the best performances in his short-lived career as the talkative and slobbish fat guy. He may look like an annoying idiot in the exterior, but deep down, his carefree personality hides a deep loneliness. In one scene, Neal confesses that he's sick of listening to his unfunny stories and there we can see Del is hurt by his ugly remark.

Although there are times Hughes gets overwhelmed with an excessive collection of pop songs cramming throughout the movie, it's a minor quibble anyway. Other than that, PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES is one of Hughes' finest works to date and certainly a must-see for every comedy fans.

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