Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product from one of our links, we could receive a commission from the seller. Rest assured, we only recommend products we believe in, and all opinions are 100% truthful. Learn More »

Classic comedy, less than stellar looking 4.5 Stars

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a classic comedy with an enormous heart. Pitch perfect casting, witty scripting, a full-title array of superb comedic performances from everyone involved, and a parade of deliciously funny sequences, this film is a treasure. The pains of travel, during the busy season, or really any time of the year where weather can be problematic (thunderstorms on the east coast have caused quite the kerfuffle for many of us), are familiar to us all, and this film milks that pain for knowing laughs.

Paramount still hasn’t delivered a home video release worthy of the film, and so the wait continues.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
Released: 25 Nov 1987
Rated: R
Runtime: 93 min
Director: John Hughes
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: Steve Martin, John Candy, Laila Robins
Writer(s): John Hughes
Plot: A Chicago advertising man must struggle to travel home from New York for Thanksgiving, with a lovable oaf of a shower curtain ring salesman as his only companion.
IMDB rating: 7.6
MetaScore: 72

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 33 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Digital Copy
Case Type: Standard 4k with sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 11/22/2022
MSRP: $25.99

The Production: 4.5/5

“You’re no saint. You got a free cab, you got a free room, and someone who’ll listen to your boring stories. I mean, didn’t you notice on the plane when you started talking, eventually I started reading the vomit bag? Didn’t that give you some sort of clue, like, hey, maybe this guy’s not enjoying it? You know, everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You’re a miracle! Your stories have none of that. They’re not even amusing *accidentally*! “Honey, I’d like you to meet Del Griffith, he’s got some amusing anecdotes for you. Oh, and here’s a gun so you can blow your brains out. You’ll thank me for it.” I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days, I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They’d say, “How can you stand it?” I’d say, “‘Cause I’ve been with Del Griffith. I can take anything.” You know what they’d say? They’d say, “I know what you mean. The shower curtain ring guy. Whoa.” It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back, you would. Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea: have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!”

Ad man Neal Page (Steve Martin) hits a travel nightmare when trying to get home to Chicago from New York in time for Thanksgiving. Cancelled flights, a scarcity of rental cars, and some of the worst luck to befall an eager traveler stand in Neal’s way. In his travel misfortunes, his journey becomes entwined with that of outgoing, jovially oblivious Del Griffith (John Candy), a likeable man who Page can’t stand. Their misadventures become the stuff of legend as they crawl their way across states trying to get to Chicago.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is that rarified cinematic wonder that delivers wit and pratfalls with accomplished ease and deftly finds a way to into your heart. Written and directed by John Hughes, it came in the heels of a stunning string of films that he wrote and/or directed-Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Some Kind of Wonderful-cinematic successes that would help cement his status as a standout filmmaker. And this road trip comedy represents the very best of Hughes’ inclinations, a consistent flow of brimming humor punctuated with searingly memorable comedy moments and a throughline of emotional matter that sweetened the comedy and made more meaningful the character journeys. Consider the number of scenes that permeate or consciousness. Scenes like Neal and Del travelling the wrong way down the highway, Neal’s F-word-filled rant toward Edie McClurg at the ticket counter, and the “Those aren’t pillows,” scene. These are classic moments that linger in the minds of anyone who saw the film. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, represents one of, if not the very best of John Hughes, and arguably Steve Martin and John Candy’s best films (though Roxanne will always be my personal favorite of Steve Martin’s work).

Besides the entertaining set up and funny script, the film becomes magical by bringing together Steve Martin and John Candy. It’s lightning in a snow-covered bottle. Steve Martin has always been a gift to comedy, entering the national consciousness with his seriously silly and consciously crafted stand up. His transition to the big screen was successful, in films like The Jerk, All of Me, and The Man with Two Brains, he delivered comedic excellence brimming with physicality, curious characters, and always acutely clever comedic timing. For his Neal Page character, Martin finds a man who is a spoil as much as a protagonist. His stuffiness and contempt for Candy’s Griffith starts as amusing, but as we warm to Griffith, he arcs into the bad guy, sharpening until we get to the brutal moment in the motel room and our shifting allegiance to Griffith is completed. It’s a refreshing character for Martin, and a character masterfully written, and superbly realized, to balance our feeling towards him and, by extension, Del Griffith.

John Candy’s Del Griffith is a buffoon, but an endearing buffoon. Candy plays up the social obliviousness all the way to edge, giving the audience occasion to understand the stiff ad man’s frustrations, but curbs the higher pitches if that heedlessness so we never disinvest from him or his journey. And that’s critical, because by the time we’ve seen him cause chaos, calamity, and near deadly vehicular collisions, we need to be ready to embrace the emotional moments as the film arrives at its end station.

When I was younger, my best friend and I would run Steve Martin movie marathons. We’d always play The Jerk and The Man with Two Brains, sometimes All of Me, sometimes Dead Mean Don’t Wear Plaid or others, but we’d always close with Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. We’d end with this film because it was a reliable laugh-filled delight, and because there is something about Martin’s performance that’s defining of his evolution. I didn’t know back then all those years ago in England what Thanksgiving meant and long considered this a Christmas movie. Now I simply call it a holiday classic because that’s exactly what it has always been. And it’s still hilarious.

Video: 3/5

3D Rating: NA

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles has never looked that good on home video. Frequently subjected to a heavy hand of digital noise reduction, there were high hopes when Paramount announced this film was getting the 4K treatment it would get the care it deserves. They seems to have missed the chance to get it right again with this disappointingly inconsistent release. It’s not a total loss as there are moments that show real promise, where detail is better, colors are warmer, tones more natural, and black levels tighter. The cab Del and Neal catch from the Wichita, Kansas airport offers a brilliant display of red with orange lettering painted on the side. The motel they end up, The Braidwood Inn, has lettering than has never looked better, too. But these elements are outweighed by persistent softness and the state of grain is hard to ascertain. But there are details. When the train breaks down and Neal is standing in the sun staring at Del struggling with his luggage, you can see loose fabric hairs fluttering in the wind on Neal’s clothing.

With a promise that the film had been newly remastered with Dolby Vision and HDR-10 grading, this should have looked special. Filmed in 35 mm with Panaflex cameras and Panavision lenses (in 1.85:1 aspect ratio), a measured, careful hand could have given us a catalogue title to celebrate, but alas, we’re not there yet. And, with all that, this is still the best this film has looked on home video.

Audio: 4/5

The DTS 5.1 Master Audio track is nothing new, but it’s been quite good for the past 10 or so years on the previous Blu-ray releases. Surrounds have always been nicely active, the sounds of busy airports, noisy planes, trains and busses and whatnot, and Ira Newborn’s spunky synth-heavy score, quite prominent. Dialogue is clear in the center channel and there’s a good balance across the front channels of action.

Special Features: 3/5

The collection of deleted and extended scenes, though of lower visual quality, are a real draw. While there aren’t any wowzah moments, there’s more of Steve Martin and John Candy, and in that you can’t go wrong. The 4K disc contains most of the special features previously available, while the accompanying Blu-ray disc, which houses only the new special features, has the extended and deleted scenes. Most of these scenes were found on VHS tapes from John Hughes’ collection, and while the quality isn’t great, it is filled with interesting moments. Some of the extended scenes also have alternate shots of lines we’ve already seen, some funny inserts that work well, but also show how effective the scene as we got them became because of the cuts. Neal arguing about being relegated to coach and discovery that he’s stuck next to Del Griffith is a good example of where the extra bits are funny, but the integrity of the scene is better from the cuts.

4K Disc

  • Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  • John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast (2-Part Documentary):
    • John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation
    • Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes
  • John Hughes for Adults
  • A Tribute to John Candy

Blu-Ray Disc

  • NEW: Never-before-seen deleted and extended scenes (recently discovered in the archives of writer, producer, and director John Hughes)
  • NEW: Dylan Baker’s original audition for the character of Owen.

Overall: 3.5/5

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a classic comedy with an enormous heart. Pitch perfect casting, witty scripting, a full-title array of superb comedic performances from everyone involved, and a parade of deliciously funny sequences, this film is a treasure. The pains of travel, during the busy season, or really any time of the year where weather can be, problematic (thunderstorms on the east coast have caused quite the kerfuffle for many of us), are familiar to us all, and this film milks that pain for knowing laughs.

Paramount still hasn’t delivered a home video release worthy of the film, and so the wait continues.

Post Disclaimer

Some of our content may contain marketing links, which means we will receive a commission for purchases made via those links. In our editorial content, these affiliate links appear automatically, and our editorial teams are not influenced by our affiliate partnerships. We work with several providers (currently Skimlinks and Amazon) to manage our affiliate relationships. You can find out more about their services by visiting their sites.

Published by

Neil Middlemiss

editor

View thread (3 replies)

Neil Middlemiss

Premium
Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Nov 15, 2001
Messages
5,068
Real Name
Neil Middlemiss
One thing I meant add in my review was how quotable this film can be. Some lines that always make me chuckle:

"Six bucks and my right nut says we're not landing in Chicago"

and

GrindsMyGearsgiphy.gif


HowWOuldHeKnow.gif


PickedUP.gif


IfIWantedAJoke.gif
 

Bryan^H

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2005
Messages
8,686
Picked this up along with 'The Canadian Mounted" a book of fun facts, and trivia about the movie (cover based on the book John Candy is reading int he film! Should be a fun read.

1669212624803.png