The holidays are a time of fun with the family and loved ones, a tasteful home-cooked meal to entice ourselves with, but getting to see our family can be a challenge in and of itself. With Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Director John Hughes takes the hassle of traveling during the holidays and shows us just how fun getting to that family dinner can be. The film stars Steve Martin (Roxanne) and John Candy (Uncle Buck) as two strangers who happen to meet during the chaotic holiday travel and become companions trying to get to their destination. The result is a film filled with hilarious moments, memorable lines of dialogue and scenes of heartfelt honesty that makes each scene flow elegantly. It’s also one of my favorite holiday films.
Neal Page (Steve Martin) is in marketing and is eager to get home to his family in Chicago. The traffic is a nightmare in New York and while trying to get to the airport someone steals his cab and his flight is delayed. Could it get any worse? At the airport, Neal meets Del Griffith (John Candy), a heavy-set man who is a shower curtain salesman for American Light and Fixture and stole his cab or as he said, “Come to think of it, it was awfully easy to get a cab during rush hour.” Griffith loves to talk, is a sweet kind-hearted man and is a slob – something that Neal isn’t. Think of an 80s version of the odd couple!
Once these two meet they discover they are on the same flight to Chicago and even sit next to each other on the plane. That’s where the real fun begins. Chicago is completely shut down due to a snowstorm and the plane is rerouted to Wichita, Kansas. Del feels bad for Neal since he can’t get home to his family for Thanksgiving and offers to help him out. What happens after this is hilarious from start to finish and Director John Hughes uses the best moments that make the comedy in the film golden.
We have the hotel room scene debacle, the Marathon car rental rant that will probably be remembered for the amazing usage of words by Neal, and the ending scene that will have a lasting effect on you. John Hughes (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) writes a magnificent script and the chemistry between Martin and Candy prove that comedians can work well together. John Hughes got the idea for the film after his flight was diverted to Wichita while trying to get home to Chicago. It took him five days to get home.
What I enjoyed most about this film is the lovely chemistry between Martin and Candy. It brings back the memories of Oscar and Felix from The Odd Couple. All the situations that these men go through are admittingly unrealistic, but I think we can overlook those things since we become invested in these characters and can relate in some way when we travel during the holidays. The song that uses Steve Martin’s voice will have you smiling once you hear and who can forget the very memorable “You’re going the wrong way!” scene?
Planes, Trains & Automobiles received critical acclaim from critics upon release but only grossed $49 million against a $30 million-dollar budget. It’s sad to know that John Candy and John Hughes didn’t live to see the film make it to its 30th anniversary. It would’ve been nice to see these two iconic stars talk about the moments from when they filmed this magnificent holiday romp.
For me, Planes, Trains & Automobiles is a film that I always watch on Thanksgiving. I haven’t stopped laughing after all these years and seeing Steve Martin and John Candy work alongside each other is just comedic gold. John Hughes gave us comedies that we love to this day and Planes, Trains & Automobiles is one film that everyone should experience especially during the holiday season. We will miss you dearly John Candy and John Hughes. Thanks for the laughs and one hell of a ride!