Warning: this Re-View contains one terrible, terrible piece of word play, and gratuitous use of GIFs that will make you want to see the film – it’s easier than writing a proper review!
I had an idea to do a Top 5 Thanksgiving movies to celebrate Turkey Day, but it quickly became apparent that there was one film that stood head and shoulders above the rest. And it is a real Thanksgiving movie, not a film that happens to take place at Thanksgiving.
As a director, John Hughes never had a better outing than Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Steve Martin was at the top of his game, having just made Three Amigos!, before he made the move into more serious roles. And John Candy… well, he was John freaking Candy. It should be no surprise that the three of them combined to produce such a great comedy film.
So, onto the film. Steve Martin plays Neal Page, a marketing executive on business trip in New York 3 days before Thanksgiving. His attempts to get a cab to the airport are first thwarted by Kevin Bacon (in a blink and you miss it role) and then John Candy’s shower ring salesman Del Griffiths. When Page eventually gets to the airport, his flight has been delayed due to bad weather, and his plans to get home that night are ruined. His mood is not improved when he meets Del Griffiths again while waiting to board the plane.
And again when he is bumped from first class to coach.
And again when his new seat is right next to Del.
The universe puts these two characters together, and not matter what Page does, he simply cannot get away. Like the basis of any good comedy (whether it be film or sitcom) these characters are bound together through forces greater than themselves, and that’s what makes this a great film. Whether it is the diversion to Wichita that puts them further away from home than ever, the horrible hotel they end up in, the robbery, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. And the only thing that the two can rely on is each other.
As we travel with these two mismatched men, we realise that for all his annoyance, Martin’s Page needs Candy’s Griffiths. Sure, Page pays for most of the journey, and Griffiths irritates him at every turn, and every attempt to help just makes the situation worse. But Del Griffiths is a good man, and without the balance Neal Page is just an angry man. It’s the pathos of Candy’s performance that brings this to life, and what really makes the film so special. Del Griffiths is the spirit of Thanksgiving.
As a comedy, this film really does have it all. There’s the surreal…
There’s some classic “I’m actually a nice guy, you’ve gone too far” bits…
There’s some great breakdowns…
Followed by some brilliant rants…
And just funny, funny stuff…
But this film is more than just a comedy. It’s the closest I have ever come to actually experiencing Thanksgiving. As a proud Brit I might not understand candied yams, and would rather we stuck to old fashioned January sales rather than succumb to Black Friday madness, but the story of Neal Page and Del Griffiths and their three day trek from New York to Chicago is something I am thankful for.
And with that incredibly cringe-worthy joke, I will wrap it up. Planes, Trains And Automobiles is a hilarious film, the perfect storm of a great script and fantastic performers. If you’ve never seen it, watch it ASAP, and if you have, it really holds up well, watch it again.
Highly recommended – in fact it gets one of these:
Recommend for fans of: Due Date (the Robert Downey Jr/Zach Galifianakis film is very similar but only a poor imitation), any road trip film, any buddy comedy, heck, any comedy film!
PS as a special treat for reading all the way to the end, here’s John Candy doing the mess around.