Planes, Trains and Automobiles

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Neal Page is trying to return to his family for Thanksgiving in Chicago after being on a business trip in New York. His journey is doomed from the outset, with Del Griffith, a traveling salesman, interfering first by leaving his trunk by the side of the road causing Neal to trip when racing a man for a cab, then moments later again by inadvertently snatching the taxi ride that Neal had bought from an attorney just before. The two inevitably pair up later and begin an error-prone adventure to help Neal get back to his home. Their flight from LaGuardia Airport to O’Hare is diverted to Wichita due to a blizzard in Chicago, which ends up dissipating only a few hours after touchdown in Kansas. When every mode of transport (including a train, a bus, and a rental car) fails them, what should have been an 1 hour and 45 minute New York-to-Chicago flight turns into a three-day adventure. To complicate matters even further, on the first night in Wichita, a thief breaks into the poorly-locked motel and steals almost $1,000 aggregate from the two men.

Neal frequently blows up at Del, blaming him for much of their misfortunes, including the robbery of the first night. These ravings are not all unjustified, as Del’s carelessly discarded cigarette sets fire to the rental car, melting all but the radio. Del in turn regards Neal as a pretentious and uptight cynic while Del is less afraid to be himself. After much heated argument between the two men, a bond between them forms, and Neal finally manages to overcome his arrogance. Both men pull together to make their way home to Chicago, while Del manages to raise money by selling off his entire inventory of shower curtain rings, to kids and adults alike, who think they make good earrings.

Under the assumption that Del has a family of his own (he frequently mentions his wife Marie and puts a framed picture of her on his various motel nightstands), the two men part ways. However, Neal later pieces together some of the things Del had said about Marie during the journey, and realizes that Del is alone for the holiday. He goes back to the train station where the two had earlier parted ways and sees him sitting alone. Del tells Neal that Marie actually died eight years prior and that he has been alone and without a permanent home ever since. Neal, feeling sorry for the man who went out of his way just to get him home for Thanksgiving and having himself become a nicer person during the journey, invites Del to enjoy Thanksgiving with his family. The film ends with Neal finally returning home to his wife, children, parents and in-laws, and introducing Del to the family.


As I was telling my friend, Kasey, this evening, there are a ton of Christmas films, but Thanksgiving has a handful, most of which aren’t worth watching. I’m getting ahead of myself. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I hope that by the time you read this, you had a great one. Now, I was looking for something Thanksgiving-ish to watch this holiday weekend and the suggestions were Dutch, Son in Law, Miracle on 34th Street, and the best reviewed and respected of the bunch, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

What is this about?

While trying to get home to his family in Chicago for Thanksgiving, marketing executive Neal Page runs into one disaster after another — which includes being stuck with insufferable salesman Del Griffith as his unshakable traveling companion.

What did I like?

Connection. When I was little there was a Saturday morning cartoon featuring John Candy that I loved. I believe it was called Camp Candy, and he was hilarious in it.. Truthfully, though, other than a few parts here and there, I haven’t seen Candy in any of his major roles, so this was something of a treat for me. I was really taken in by how well he and Steve Martin played off each other. As great as Martin is, I wasn’t expecting the chemistry between the two to be so great. I wonder why they didn’t work together more often?

80s. As a child of the 80s, I often seek out films that take me back to that carefree time and this is no exception. While not as 80s chic as something like say, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it does manage to take you back with the use of certain things in pop culture that were big at the time.

Funny. I have to say that the amount of funny in this film is something sorely missed in today’s cinema. It was so great to watch a film that actually was funny without trying to be offensive or raunchy, but rather just natural situations that turned comedic because of a little slapstick that was added in. Hopefully one day, we’ll be able to get back to this point with our comedy.

What didn’t I like?

Bad day. I’ve heard of people having a string of bad luck, but this was a bit too much. From losing his cab in New York and getting diverted to Wichita, KS instead of Chicago because of a snowstorm to the rental car catching on fire and having no money for a hotel room, Steve Martin’s character couldn’t catch a break! For comedic purposes, this is comedy gold, but from a human standpoint, I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.

Ending. At the expense of spoiling the ending, our stars end up with a nicely wrapped up conclusion to this story. In the last few minutes, we discover something about John Candy’s characters’ wife that explains some things about him and also brings the film down in the final scene. As the final credits start, we get a final shot of Candy looking happy and sad at the same time. I don’t think this was a bad thing to do, jut believe that the timing could be better. There were plenty of other places they could have brought this up, rather than the last scene.

I do believe I have found a new Thanksgiving tradition. Aside from watching the Cowboys win, the Macy’s parade, and eating, sometime during the week, from now on (or at least until some more decent Thanksgiving films appear), I will be watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. This is a funny film that features two of the greatest comedic actors that were working at the time. The only objectionable moment in this flick is one profanity laden rant at a rental agent, that was actually quite funny. I highly recommend this, so give it a shot!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars


3 Responses to “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

  1. […] own, but Thanksgiving doesn’t really have any. Well, any that are household names. I think Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is the one most associated with […]

  2. […] film, there isn’t much Thanksgiving about it. This is more of a road trip film, much like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, that just happens to take place at Thanksgiving. That being said, I enjoyed it for the most part. […]

  3. […] Enjoy the trailer for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles […]

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