Roger Ebert is revered as the greatest movie critic of all time. Notorious for giving movies literal “Two Thumbs Up” or “Two Thumbs Down,” depending how good or bad they are, he made his career talking film and voicing his opinion for or against movies. 1987’s John Hughes holiday classic “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” is one of his favorite movies – ever.
I am proud to admit it is one of mine, as well!
Del Griffith (John Candy) and Neal Page (Steve Martin) are travelling during the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Del has no true destination, as he is a shower curtain ring salesman that lives out of a trunk, permanently on the road. Neal is an overworked ad executive who is trying to get home from his office in New York City to his home in the suburbs of Chicago. They cross paths multiple times, and eventually decide to stick together in order to complete their journeys. The title of the movie comes from the various modes of transportation they must repeatedly switch back and forth between due to fate, bad luck, Mother Nature, and other unforeseen obstacles.
“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” is an essential holiday movie. It is one of a very few Thanksgiving movies, a holiday that is often skipped over in Hollywood due to the popularity of Halloween and Christmas bookending it. But not only is it essential, it is wonderful!
Similar to so many other John Hughes movies, it is comforting. A story of two men stuck together, forced to get along or break. While the plot may be simple, it is realistic. It is relatable. It is human. If you’ve seen the movie, you know full well the intricacies of both Del and Neal. If you haven’t seen the movie (yet) you will most certainly recognize Del’s and Neal’s in your own life as you watch. I would say it is a safe assumption to say that everyone knows either a Del, or a Neal, or both!
Part of what makes the movie so great is the fact that Steve Martin and John Candy are perfect together. No exaggeration! The way they play off of each other, the way they understand comedy and certain things they do, or say, or make faces…the movie works best simply because they do it better than anybody, which leads me to this: there is a remake in the works.
Normally, I am impartial to remakes. Hollywood churns them out so fast you can hardly keep up with them. I could list twenty off of the top of my head right now! But with this one, I simply could not be more disgusted by such an idea. A perfect movie – which “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” is – does not need remade. Ever! It is timeless, beloved, and simply too good to ever need redone. The supposed stars of the remake – Kevin Hart and Will Smith have been announced – are fine actors. I like both men, and most of the movies they have made. But I will not see the remake, even with them starring in it. The original is so dear to my heart that I simply cannot ever support a different version.
I have multiple “go-to” movies when it comes to certain things. They are ingrained in my brain, and are connected to certain things in life. I watch them at certain times, for certain reasons, because it is not only what I have always done, it is what I want to do. They help make other things seem real, and they make me feel more connected to them. I have a go-to Halloween movie. I have a go-to Christmas movie. I have a go-to pick-me-up movie. They are “comfort movies,” in every sense of the phrase “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” is my go-to Thanksgiving movie, a comfort movie for the holiday. Every year, on Thanksgiving Day, I watch it in the morning and then head to one of my family member’s houses to celebrate the day. In all of my Thanksgiving Days over the years I have only not done this once, and it honestly made the day feel completely different. I know there was a lot more contributing to it than just that, but I also know that was part of it. Traditions exist for a reason, whether they are out of superstition or comfort, and watching it the morning of Thanksgiving Day is one of my traditions.
I never get tired of it. I still laugh at every laugh-out-loud moment, just like the first time I saw it. And I still tear-up at the end, even though I know full well the big sentimental moment is coming.
Roger Ebert and I both agree that “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” is a perfect movie. I hope you do – or will – as well.
“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” is rated R for language (which takes place all in one scene and still holds a record for most swearing within the span of one minute), with a total runtime of one hour and thirty-three minutes. It is available to borrow from PPL on DVD.