Planes, Trains and Automobiles was released on November 25, 1987. It’s a comedy film written, produced and directed by non other than John Hughes. The film stars Steve Martin as Neal Page and John Candy as Del Griffith, the two characters share a three day journey of pits and falls trying to get Neal home to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
For this set we’ll be looking to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Before I get carried away with the details, go check out what my friends Dr. Q at Craft Beer Tasters and Cody from Three B Zine have to say about this film.
The film starts of with Neal in a marketing meeting, which is running late, he needs to get to the New York airport to fly to Chicago for Thanksgiving dinner with his family. This is the beginning of his troubles, he meets Del, a traveling salesman, who first interferes in Neal’s travels by leaving his trunk of the side of the road, this causing Neal to trip when he’s racing Kevin Bacon to catch a cab. He then snatches Neal’s cab, later Del and Neal are paired up due to an error with the airline booking. These two are forced together from here on out.
Due to the weather their flight is diverted to Wichita. Del finds a less than stellar motel owned by one of his contacts, hilarity ensues as the two perform their pre-sleep rituals. During the night they get robbed, they then attempt to continue their journey by way of train, but that breaks down, stranded in a field they make their way to the nearest town, Del sells his stock of shower curtain rings for bus tickets, but they’re only good to St. Louis. When they arrive Neal and Del part ways, where Neal attempts to rent a car, but in keeping with the fashion, the car isn’t there and we get a classic scene where Neal takes out all his frustrations on a rental car agent, multiple expletives are exposed to great effect.
Del comes to Neal’s rescue and he’s punched by a cab dispatcher at the airport, for further taking out his frustrations. On the road again they quickly get in to another argument, Neal blames Del for all the misfortune they’ve experienced, his arguments aren’t too far from the truth, as Del’s has discarded a cigarette in the back set of the rental, thereby causing it to catch on fire. They argue again, Del’s eternal optimism drive’s Neal’s uptightness up the wall. After a bonding moment in the motel room they set out again for Chicago the following morning, only to be pulled over by Michael McKean. They can’t drive the rental due to its burned/melted condition, Del arranges for them to ride in a semi-truck, but in the trailer with all the cargo.
They finally make it to Chicago, three days after Thanksgiving. The two part ways, Neal bound for his family and Neal thinking that Del is bound for his family, what with the constant mention of his wife Marie. While on the train ride, Neal pieces it together that Del is actually alone. He goes back to the train station to find Del sitting alone, here it’s revealed that Marie actually died eight years ago and that he’s been alone with permanent home. Neal takes pity on Del and invites him to come over to his home. The film ends perfectly with Neal returning home to his wife, children and in-laws, “Everytime You Go Away” begins to play and Del gets introduced to the Page family as we freeze frame on John Candy.
The good; we get a familiar house, even though this is where we first see it on screen, but it’s more famous for being the McCallister house in Home Alone, another John Hughes movie.
The characters are what really drives this film. Martin and Candy embody the characters of Neal and Del perfectly. I find myself initially connected to Neal, but Hughes manages to make Del equally relate-able. How’d he manage to do that? We go from not wanting to be stuck in the same space as John Candy to empathizing with him completely, answering my previously posed question, this is accomplished by Hughes drawing from a personal experience and John Candy’s universal love-ability.
I don’t have much to say, other than you need to experience this film if you already haven’t.
The bad; the soundtrack, it’s very dated. The pop score is very 1980s, but I love the other stuff. The use of existing music here better than most, just not loving the score. The amount of onscreen smoking also dates this movie, there’s so much of it going on.
Overall, you’ll love this movie, I did, and I still love it on repeated viewings.
Upon said repeated viewing(s) I’d pair it with a bottle of Bubble Up Soda.
Bubble Up why? Because of Del’s eternal optimism. This lemon-lime soft drink was created way back in 1919 by the Sweet Valley Products Co, based in Ohio.
Bubble Up was produced 10 years prior to the more known 7Up, but it can still be found in specialty soda shops. There’s something about Bubble Up that’s different, sure it’s like Sprite of 7Up, but it also came before them. Allow yourself to partake in one of the original lemon-lime soft drinks, I say one of the original due to records of that period being spotty – at best. Bubble Up will keep you quenched through the roller coaster of emotions that is Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a delight. It’s the odd couple taking a road trip. The balance between who you empathize with ping pongs between the like-abilities of both Martin and Candy. That’s why Martin’s stated that this is favorite of his own films. So be grateful that this classic is on Netflix, watch it now!