Martin's Thanksgiving Candy
I've watched "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" numerous times since its release back in the late 80s and have always liked it. The daft thing is that it took another movie, "Due Date" which came out in 2010 for me to realise exactly how good John Hughes's buddy/ road-trip movie is. You watch the two very similar movies and you can not only see the influence of "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" on "Due Date" but you can see what is missing. What that is, well to be honest it is hard to describe because it is knowledge, two comedians knowing how to work together to sell jokes and a director who whilst adept at delivering funny never takes his eye off of the bigger picture. It is basically a complete package which makes "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" still the great comedy it was when I first watched it many years ago.
Having promised to be home for Thanksgiving Neal Page (Steve Martin - Roxanne) is in a hurry for his meeting to finish so he can rush to the airport and get the flight to Chicago. Unfortunately for Neal nothing goes right, the meeting drags on, it's rush hour and he can't get a taxi and when he does someone else takes it when his back is turned. That someone else is shower curtain hook salesman Del Griffith (John Candy - Brewster's Millions) who enjoys chatting. But that is not the end of Neal's problems as from flights being delayed to re-routed to out of the way airports he finds himself having to travel home with Del via a variety of vehicles, sharing motel rooms and a lot of mishaps.
It would be really easy to describe "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" as a simple mix of road-trip movie with unlikely buddies as the basis of it because it is exactly that. We get to watch as not only does Del often annoy Neal but often is the cause of one accident after another which leads to more stress and time delays. But the thing about "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" is that there is a bigger picture than just road trip accidents and that is Neal discovering something about what is important in life. Now that may sound sentimentally slushy but Hughes incorporates it brilliantly so whilst we get to see glimpses of Neal becoming less uptight the big transformation doesn't come right until the end and a moment realisation.
But of course the fun of "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" is the comedy, the mishaps, the accidents, injuries and various situations Neal and Del end up in. And there is a heck of a lot of them from incidents with pillows to driving the wrong way on a road as well as the general humour of Del annoying Neal the whole time. The daft thing is that there is a lot of normal jokes thrown in from broken car seats to Del and Neal having to share a bed yet everyone of them works and you don't find yourself groaning when one of these jokes crop up.
Now there is a good reason why you don't groan and that is because Steve Martin and John Candy sell every single joke brilliantly from huge set pieces to simple slapstick of falling over or getting crushed nuts. It is a big reason why for all those movies which have tried to imitate "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" none of them get close because you can't create that sort of chemistry which Martin and Candy had.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" is now over 25 years old it is still one of the best road trip/ buddy movies you will ever watch. What it has is more than comedy; it has a bigger picture and two comedians in Steve Martin and John Candy who had perfect chemistry.