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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 35.71%
Average: 2.86%
Pretty Bad: 2.86%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 52 user ratings

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles
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by Brett Gallman

"Be thankful for John Hughes"
4 stars

When John Hughes’s obituary was written a couple of years ago, it was something that came all too soon. Though he’d been all but retired for the better part of fifteen years, he was still yanked from the world prematurely, with his genius having, I think, only been subtly appreciated. It’s a shame that it sometimes takes death to illuminate life, and Hughes was all about life. I’ve already let my unabashed appreciation for the man cause me to digress into this awful preamble, but my point is this: his obituary rightfully discussed how he captured the voice of teenage angst (I hesitate to say the “voice of a generation,” as he transcended that); however, Hughes also contributed some somewhat underappreciated “adult” films, two of which were holiday themed.

One was “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” which he only penned; it’s become a cult favorite over the years, one of many Yuletide viewing staples that gets repeated at least a few hundred times on cable. Less mentioned is the minor Thanksgiving classic, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” which somehow seems appropriate given that the holiday itself is often drowned out by premature Christmas music and decorations.

I suppose it’s hard to make a “Thanksgiving movie”; after all, whatever themes it might carry could certainly bleed into general holiday moralizing. However, I think this is most likely the best you’ll ever see, as it mixes the zaniness of holiday madness with the genuine heart of what these particular festivities represent. It’s about a guy named Neal Page (Steve Martin), who’s caught amidst all that hustle and bustle--he races strangers on the street (one of whom is Kevin Bacon, so keep that handy the next time you play six degrees) for a taxi, as he’s in desperate need of catching a flight back home for Thanksgiving.

He thinks he’s managed to acquire a trip to the airport after buying off a cab for $75, but he’s dismayed to see it speed off after Del Griffith (John Candy) swipes it from under his nose. From this point on, Neal can’t escape Del, as the two are forced to endure a 48 hour comedy of hours that sees things go from bad, to worse to supremely wrecked and on fire.

I think this is a film that imagines that there is a God, and he’s the type of guy who likes to keep himself amused by screwing around with people. Nothing else could really explain how these two guys are seemingly fated to each other; in fact, whenever Neal tries to rid himself of his newfound companion, something even worse happens to him, prompting Del to reappear like a guardian devil leading him to more mischief.

One of the great oddball pairings in film, Martin and Candy find themselves in heaps and heaps of trouble. The title refers to the various methods of travel they attempt to use, with each being a bit more disastrous than the next. But they’re in it together, much to the dismay of Martin’s Neal, who is the weary straight guy to Candy’s oafish but good-hearted motor-mouth. Candy was another talent that the world didn’t get to appreciate due to an untimely death, and this is one of his finer moments; Del is a great Midwestern caricature on the surface--portly, mustached, and heavily-accented (basically the type of guy parodied by SNL’s “Super Fans”). Underneath both that and the impish demeanor, though, is a quiet dignity that sells the film’s emotional moments.

And, as this is a John Hughes movie, there is an undeniable heart that you can constantly feel in Candy’s facial expressions. Neal and Del have some big blow-ups, and the end result feels like the latter has yelled at a kid with big puppy-dog eyes. But there’s also a hint of sadness to Del as well, and there’s certainly some quality about him that keeps Neal from completely abandoning him. One could hardly blame him if he did, though, and Martin skillfully walks the line between being the jerk (which is knows a thing or two about) and the compassionate guy. Since this is a holiday film, you can guess which wins out.

The journey is no less fun, especially since Hughes’s trademarks are on display. His style was always somewhat idiosyncratic--I particularly love his abilities to capture small, genuine, and awkward moments. Given his attachment to teen movies, he’s mostly credited with capturing that type of adolescent awkwardness, but this shows he could find it just about anywhere: in the sharing of a dingy hotel room with a complete stranger, in the embarrassment of everyone staring at you on a bus when you break out into a terrible song, and so on. There’s lots of fine little moments like this peppered in with memorable bit roles, such as the local bumpkin who gives the duo a ride in his truck and the overly perky lady behind the rental car counter, who gets perhaps the best line in the film because it sums everything up completely.

As smart and funny as just about anything Hughes had to offer, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” is a great film that’s eventually about being thankful for what you have, especially since you may have so much more than others. Most importantly, though, it’s about being thankful for the people in your life--even the ones that ramble into it and eventually leave your rental car ablaze in the middle of the road.

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originally posted: 11/24/11 20:27:15
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User Comments

3/16/17 Dr.Lao Better tha the critics would have you believe 4 stars
1/24/12 Corinne May became a tradition to watch on Thanksgiving morning in our home. I 5 stars
11/27/11 Shaun A One of the most hilarious and frustrating (in a good way!) movies ever. 5 stars
6/22/10 the dork knight Dated but pretty funny 4 stars
7/08/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* Very great movie. The movie has great comedy, while also having a great message. Awesome!!! 4 stars
9/17/08 Jeph Well beyond hilarious. Screenplay comes full-circle. 5 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner This movie is so funny! 5 stars
7/27/08 The Dork Knight Classic buddy movie. Still funny, too 5 stars
1/26/08 proper amateur film critic Enjoyable, well cast and funny 4 stars
1/05/08 Pamela White one laugh after another and made me think to invite someone lonely for the holiday 5 stars
5/09/07 Anton The scene with Candy driving at night is quite possibly the funniest scene in movie history 5 stars
3/28/07 Anthony G Excellent Film. One of the all time greats. 5 stars
10/28/06 MP Bartley Brilliant comedy. Martin is superb but Candy is flat-out wonderful. Surprisingly tender too 5 stars
10/05/05 Jesse Taylor Possibly the funniest movie ever made. 5 stars
9/02/05 ES Awesome, such a good movie, so very, very funny 5 stars
8/03/05 ALDO Bad parts, maybe, but who gives a shit? Will turn you into a movie-quoting loser 5 stars
7/30/05 Adam A great hilarious feel good movie, classic! 5 stars
7/12/05 DM "That wasn't a pillow!" Priceless. 4 stars
2/01/05 Jeff Anderson Martin & Candy at their finest & funniest. JOHN HUGHES REDEEMS HIMSELF WITH THIS WINNER!!!! 5 stars
12/27/04 mjoc This is one of the funniestmovies I have ever seen! 5 stars
12/10/04 Jason Kaul Holiday classic. Makes me laugh every time! 5 stars
11/19/04 screb hilarious 5 stars
7/09/03 natasha_theobald watching Martin unhinge is a distinct pleasure; Candy is a joyous catalyst 5 stars
4/19/03 R.W. Welch Catastrophe-strewn road pic. Often funny after it gets rolling. 4 stars
3/22/03 Jack Sommersby The music score is horrendous, but everything else is just about perfect. 4 stars
12/02/02 sdfr funny, sweet and charming. Nice ending. 4 stars
12/02/02 Nevz Simply classic 80's comedy 5 stars
10/15/02 Charles Tatum The first thing you can do is wipe that fucking smile off your fucking face 5 stars
9/27/02 Tom Fleeman A classic! Steve and John were superb! A must see. 5 stars
5/13/02 Dark Baron What a great trio, with John (Candy), Steve and John (Hughes) 5 stars
2/21/02 Xaver Lots of good laughs. I miss John Candy. 4 stars
11/23/01 Andrew Carden Just Doesn't Work. Two Great Comics Wasted In Meaningless Parts. 2 stars
8/08/01 Mr. Hat Funny & surprisingly unpredictable,but when Steve gets picked up by the balls,I get sick! 4 stars
8/07/01 E-Funk Sucha perfect blend of feeling and comedy from two of the masters. Hughes last great film. 5 stars
4/24/01 Spetters A comedy that just isn´t funny enough. 2 stars
3/08/01 master.node Amusing. Would I watch it again? Maybe in a few years. 3 stars
2/06/01 Classicdog A good laugh; Candy is hilarious! 4 stars
1/28/01 Soggy Bottom Boy Candy at his best, Martin at his best, this is worth a rent at the holidays. 5 stars
1/25/01 Sully only movie i"ve watched more than Better Off Dead....outright-fucking-bellyaching-hilarious 5 stars
12/28/00 Turtle One word: Hilarious! 5 stars
11/23/00 A.K. A hilarous yet sentimental comedy. An modern comedy classic 5 stars
10/23/00 YOUR Movie Expert This and Ferris Bueller are THE best John Hughes, before he became Barney II. 5 stars
6/26/00 Joel L. A movie ILL watch over and over again..Its that funny! 5 stars
4/16/00 Michael Casper My most favorite movie of all time! John Candy was my idol! 5 stars
3/30/00 Steve This fucking movie was fucking very funny, and very fucking entertaining. Fucking great! 5 stars
11/16/99 Lee Page Could not stop laughing 4 stars
10/21/99 Tony Daquano One of the funnist fucking films of all time 5 stars
9/06/99 Anthony Ellis One of the best road movies of all time. 5 stars
5/26/99 iyu John Candy's best film. Funny as hell, and emotionally moving. Excellent movie 5 stars
10/31/98 Silent Rob A true Thanksgiving film. Makes you laugh, cry and think! Kudos to Huges! 5 stars
9/19/98 Badass "My dogs are barking tonight" 4 stars
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  25-Nov-1987 (R)



Directed by
  John Hughes

Written by
  John Hughes

  Steve Martin
  John Candy
  Laila Robins
  Michael McKean
  Kevin Bacon
  Dylan Baker

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