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Monday, November 9, 2015


The list of movies that take place during Thanksgiving is really short and the list of good movies that take place during Thanksgiving is even shorter. I saw Planes, Trains and Automobiles during its theatrical release, and I loved it. I don’t know why, but John Candy could always make me laugh. I became a John Candy fan way back when he was on SCTV. When Candy paired up with Steve Martin, it was a movie I was pretty much guaranteed to like.

It wasn’t until later on that I found out that a significant portion of the movie was shot in Buffalo on the 219. That was also around the time I started to read and hear stories about how absolutely miserable almost every person in the cast and crew was during the making of this movie. I am always fascinated at how many truly funny movies were created under miserable circumstances.

I was also recently reminded that Planes, Trains and Automobiles has moments when it is a truly sad movie. I guess I never thought about that aspect of the film because it makes me laugh so much. But it is important to remember the range of emotions this movie creates, and how expertly John Hughes mixes anger, humor and sadness. But then again, that ability to mingle many emotions into one movie was always a hallmark of Hughes’ movies for me. To me, the guy was just brilliant at making comedies that mattered.

From the moment Del Griffith (John Candy) and Neal Page (Steve Martin) meet, the stage is set for some of the funniest and most uncomfortable comedy you have ever seen. I am not sure why some of the scenes in this movie make me feel uncomfortable, but I am glad they do because that only heightens the impact they have on me. I cannot think of one single throw-away character, scene or moment in this movie. From the rental car scene with Neal and the kind of rental clerk everyone hates to the surprising revelation about Del at the end of the movie, every minute of this movie is worth watching.

There are so many scenes in this movie worth remembering, that the movie cannot help but be iconic. The pillow scene, the taxi scene, the two trucks going down the highway scene and the burning car scene are just a few of the really good reasons to see this movie. It works at so many levels and the best part is that you don’t even have to try to understand the movie to enjoy it.

One of the more significant elements of this movie that I really enjoy is the way that Hughes can create what I call soft edges to the scenes that need them. When Del starts talking about his wife in the hotel room, the close-up has this softness to it that the scene with Neal’s tirade about everything wrong with Del does not have. John Hughes has never been noted for his attention to detail in his movies, but he should be. The next time you watch this movie, just take note of how the look of every scene fits the emotion. It is just one of those subtle things Hughes does in his movies that help to make them so very good.

If you didn’t laugh out loud at the scene on the highway where Neal and Del get pulled over while driving the burnt out car, then maybe good comedy isn’t for you. If the ending of this movie didn’t tug at your heartstrings just a little, then maybe you should pay more attention to the movie from the beginning. Hughes makes this movie so easy to like that it is simply a pleasure to watch. As 80s comedies goes, this one ranks way up there with the rest of the John Hughes movies that defined that entire decade.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

+George N Root III is a drive-in fanatic who grew up on 80s comedies. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at georgenroot3@gmail.com.



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