Planes, Trains And Automobiles [Review 28 for FQ13]


Why I Saw It: When you talk to people about “classic” movies from various eras, any talk of 80’s comedies has to include PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES. I hadn’t seen it, and part of this year’s Film Quest is to fill in the glaring gaps in my film-watching resume.

What Was It About?  “A man must struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving, with an obnoxious slob of a shower ring salesman his only companion. What he really wanted was to spend Thanksgiving with his family. What he got was three days with the turkey.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Memorable Performances: This is one of my favorite performances by John Candy, because he walks the line so perfectly balanced between being one of the most annoying people you’d ever meet, mixed with one of the most kindhearted and sincere characters. It was also memorable for me to see Steve Martin in a movie where he has a significant amount of profanity in his dialogue. I’m sure this isn’t the only film where Martin swears a considerable amount, but it’s the first time I can recall hearing him talk like that.

Potential Nominations for Film Quest ’13:  

  • Best Supporting Actor – John Candy

Favorite Parts: There weren’t a lot of scenes in the film that I would point out as being “favorites”. Overall the reason I liked it was because the story was interesting, the performances were good, the way things unfolded were entertaining and the annoying parts were handled in such a way as to not have a very significant impact on the film.

The Regrettable Aspects: When characters in movies and television shows act outside the realm of normal behavior, it bothers me, and there was quite a bit of that with this movie:

  • Del’s Driving – If he really acted like that behind the wheel, he wouldn’t have lived this long.
  • Hotel bathroom scene – Does anyone actually get into a shower without ensuring they have a towel ahead of time, especially in a hotel? And who would wash out their underwear in a hotel room sink and not dry them when staying in a hotel room with a virtual stranger AND when you’re planning to leave the next day? PROBABLY not someone who is accustomed to staying in hotels.
  • planes-trains-and-automobiles-posterTwo dudes in one bed – Would anyone have as little regard for a fellow traveler in that situation as what John Candy had for Steve Martin’s character? Certainly we all have little things about ourselves that might grate on someone else’s nerves, but the absurdity of all the things John Candy was doing while sharing a bed with Steve Martin’s character was eye-rollingly bad.
  • Highway at night – Is there any way that BOTH Steve Martin’s and John Candy’s characters would be so entirely oblivious to the fact that they were going the wrong way on the highway that they would travel as long as they did without rectifying the situation? Could they really interact with a car on the other side of the highway without realizing what was going on? Would two trucks approach them with such little time to react that they wouldn’t be able to get out of the way?

Would I watch it again? I will probably watch it again, on my own without any reason other than for entertainment’s sake, because of the strength of the performances, and because the regrettable aspects weren’t strong enough to detract significantly from the film.

planes_003To Whom Would I Recommend It?  I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to see the various classic films from different eras. If you care at all about movies from the 80’s or comedies, this is probably a must-watch.

Other Recommendations:

Three Amigos! – Whenever it comes to Steve Martin comedies, I’m most likely going to be recommending Three Amigos! It’s such a great film and easily my favorite performance from Steve Martin.

The Great Outdoors – Though I find some of John Candy’s characters overly annoying, that’s not the case with PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, and one of the few other films from John Candy where his character is really just a good, well-intentioned guy would be The Great Outdoors. I don’t feel like the same can be said for Summer Rental or Uncle Buck.

Roxanne – Definitely an under-appreciated film. Steve Martin isn’t at his comedic best here, but they do blend comedy and drama very nicely in the updated telling of Cyrano. It’s absolutely worth the viewing, and it’s similar to PLANES in the way that things don’t go right for Martin and he makes the most of the situation.

If you’ve got recommendations for alternatives to PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, or for other similar films, let me know!

Next up, GOON.


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