81. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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Movie: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Release Date: November 25, 1987

Director: John Hughes

Starring: Steve Martin, John Candy.

Tag Lines: “Steve Martin had no reason to panic…until John Candy came along.”

“Pack in the Laughter!”

“What he really wanted was to spend Thanksgiving with his family. What he got was three days with the turkey.”

Relevance: A majority of the films on my list of most influential movies of all time, especially those in my top one hundred, have a very relevant backstory of why it is so important to me. Others are just really great movies. ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ is one of those movies.

It is no secret that I was (and am) a huge fan of John Hughes. He had his hands involved, in one way, shape or form, with numerous films from the 1980’s, a handful which have already shown up on this blog. As a director alone, ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ marks his fourth film (see 285. Weird Science, 91. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and 85. Sixteen Candles for the first three) with one more to go. Released during the holiday season in 1987, ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ received critical acclaim and was a moderate hit at the box office. Most critics were impressed by Mr. Hughes to steer (pun intended) out of his wheelhouse of teen angst comedies and deliver an adult comedy with the same amount of success. Sentimental, silly and heartfelt, the film was especially praised for the performances of its two leads, John Candy and Steve Martin.

I did not see the film when it was released in theaters. It had an R-rating which may have kept me from seeing it as I was only sixteen at the time, however once it was released to home media, it was rented almost immediately. I watched the movie with my family and the one thing I remember most about it is that we all laughed, a lot. It was just one of those movies that made us feel good, made us smile and with its “got to get home by Thanksgiving” theme, made us all sentimental about the importance of family, especially around the holidays. We loved all of the holidays as a family, something that I remember as early as the 1970’s right up through today, and the film’s celebration of that particular celebration made us endear it a little bit more.

‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ is a movie I own as part of my movie collection and one that I watch every holiday season, usually around Thanksgiving time. It has also become one of my son’s favorites, which is very odd. Our tastes in movies are vastly different and he usually poo-poo’s everything from the 1980’s (except heavy metal hair bands, something he gets from his mother). There is something about ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ that makes him laugh uncontrollably and it is one “holiday” movie that we can agree upon and watch together. For that alone, it deserves a spot in my top one hundred. So thank you, John Hughes.

Today’s Thoughts: “Six bucks and my right nut says we’re not landing in Chicago.”

Even though we are just at the beginning of October and I am in complete “Halloween” mode, after watching ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ today, I really can’t wait for the holiday season. I can’t help it. Bring on the turkey, the lights and the eggnog.

John Hughes crafted a great film and one of John Candy’s finest performances ever. I was a huge fan of Mr. Candy and he always made me laugh, but there is something about the character of Del Griffith that really made me fall in love with him. It is a great role and his acting partner in Steve Martin is equally effective. Their chemistry is absolute perfection. I could watch them spar together for hours.

There are also so many great lines and moments in the film it is difficult to pick a favorite. My son and I quote the movie quite a lot and even talking about the film makes us laugh really hard. But if I had to choose, it would have to be the scene with the incomparable Edie McClurg. That scene happens to be the reason the movie is rated-R thanks to Steve Martin’s “fucking” tirade as well as Ms. McClurg’s response. “You’re fucked.” She and the delivery is brilliant. My mom, who absolutely hated the “F-word,” (although otherwise swore like a sailor), would cackle every time that scene was on. And thinking about her, made me cackle a little bit harder today.

‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ is a classic comedy that should in my humble opinion become a holiday tradition in everyone’s house. It is sweet, hysterical, charming and as long as you don’t mind nineteen “F-words” in one scene, the perfect family film.

Ways to Watch: Tubi, Hulu, HBO Max, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, DVD Availability.

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