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Planes, Trains and Automobiles-review

Updated on July 2, 2010

Fat and Skinny

"Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is simply a funny, enjoyable, family comedy, that the coming holidays have inspired me to watch. This was brought to us by John Hughes, who is also responsible for movies such as "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

John Hughes knows the formula which he creatively re-invents with each new film, the formula specifically being the juxtaposition of opposites - in terms of characters - whether it is the love interests in "Some Kind of Wonderful," or the unlikely travel companions in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."

In "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," John Hughes cast Steve Martin as the anal Neil Page, the successful businessman, and John Candy, as Del Griffith, the personable traveling salesman of shower curtain rings. The characters are basically a pair of opposites forced to endure each other's company, as their flight was diverted from Chicago to Wichita on the eve of Thanksgiving.  They travel together in their struggle to make it home for the holidays.

The structure can almost simply be broken down into two lists of opposites. The man with a large family, the man with no family. The fat man, the thin man. The guy who's anal, the guy who can go with the flow. The "Chatty Kathy doll," and the man who would rather brood in silence.  Put them together and watch the tension. 

John Candy and Steve Martin, however, make the movie much bigger than a list.

They become the opposites - the contradictions - the two things that cannot co-exist. What John Hughes does so successfully, over and over, is making us, as the audience, sympathize with both of these opposites and yearn for the tension to dissipate. 

He has the ability to write real characters, regardless of the formulaic plots.  If we, as the audience, don't invest in the characters, then the movies simply wouldn't work.  We'd be constantly waiting for the next plot point.  Because we are emotionally invested in these well drawn characters, everything becomes bigger, and Steve Martin drying his face with John Candy's underwear becomes a classic moment in movie history.

It is also the only great Thanksgiving movie that comes to mind, and every holiday needs a great movie.


Update: R.I.P. John Hughes and John Candy.


"You know, the finest line a man 'll walk is between success at work and success at home."


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    • Coolmon2009 profile image


      8 years ago from Texas, USA

      I have seen this film a few times. To me it is one of the good classic films.

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      9 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      This is a classic film - I have it on DVD. Yes, RIP John Hughes and John Candy! A big huggable canadian guy! They don't make 'em like this nowadays. Steve martin is so funny when he is good, and has good material to work on, the film "The Jerk" had me in knots! Carl Reiner did that one I think! The humour comes thick and fast! And stupid! LOL!


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