‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ is a great vehicle for Martin, Candy
When we think of the late, great John Hughes, our minds immediately go to his classics — “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty in Pink,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and, of course, “Home Alone.”
One of Hughes’ underrated films is the 1987 buddy comedy “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” I stumbled across this classic while scrolling through the free movies on Xfinity earlier this week. The movie stars Steve Martin as uptight marketing executive Neil Page who is desperately trying to get from New York City to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. The late John Candy plays Del Griffith, an obnoxious, yet lovable shower curtain ring salesman. Through a series of wild and crazy events, the two wind up traveling together.
At the start of the film, Page is stuck in a late meeting on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Running late to the airport, he pays a man $75 for a taxi, which Griffith promptly swipes from him. The two see each other again at the airport and wind up sitting together on the plane. When a snowstorm closes O’Hare Airport, the plane gets diverted to Wichita, Kansas.
From there, the movie really takes off, so to speak.
With no flights to Chicago, the two embark on a wild adventure together. They share a hotel room, get robbed, take a train, rent a car and encounter plenty of problems along the way. From being robbed and losing all of their cash to a car fire, “Neil and Del hit about every pothole you can imagine.
The film really works because of the chemistry between Martin and Candy. Martin plays the uptight character to the hilt. He’s a neat, hospital corners type of guy, while Candy easily pulls off the messy — but likeable — traveling salesman role. There are plenty of great scenes in the film. One of the best is when Neil and Del are forced to share a bed together on night one. After an argument, the two wake in the morning curled up with one another. Del accidentally kisses Neil, who is holding Del’s hand. When Neil asks Del where his other hand is, he responds: “Between two pillows!” “Those aren’t pillows,” Neil yells and the two jump out of bed, freaking out over their accidental, but inadvertent romantic moment.
There’s also an iconic scene when Neil goes full Karen on a car rental clerk after being dropped off in the middle of a parking lot only to find out that his rental car was not in its spot.
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” works because there is a nice mix of humor. There are funny jokes, some sight gags and even pratfalls. Martin — one of America’s most underrated comedic actors — really gets to flex his muscle in this one. Candy, who died of a heart attack at 43, really shines in the film. While it’s not his best film (see: “Uncle Buck”), he makes you grow to love Del Griffith.
Side note: “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” could never be made today. As my son pointed out, the two couldn’t get stranded today. Cell phones and Uber would make this one a 15-minute short instead of a 90-minute tour de force.
There are some plot twists and a somewhat sappy ending, but Martin and Candy make this one worth watching.
It’s rated R for Martin’s profanity-laced tirade at the airport. Other than that, it’s a pretty harmless one to watch with the kids. It’s available on Xfinity and YouTube.
Chris Morelli is a staff reporter for The Express.