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Warning: Spoiler Alert
For the past two years I have watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles near Thanksgiving. For those who have not seen Planes, Trains and Automobiles it was a 1987 film directed by John Hughes, starring Steve Martin and the late John Candy. Neal Page (Steve Martin) is in a rush to get home for his Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately plane trips from New York to Chicago are canceled due to snow, the train breaks down, and his rental car is missing. With the help from stranger, Del Griffith (John Candy), audiences are in for a wild ride.
Movies are a gift to the world. They’re an escape from reality. They’ll make you smile, cry, and think. Thinking is the most essential part of watching a movie. You can’t just watch it once. I remember the first time I watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It may have been around my early high school years. I remember gasping out loud and even saying "oh no" when Del drives back onto the wrong side of the highway. I still have the same response even after my fourth time watching the movie. Audience response is everything.
This film is about friendship, the unexpected, and change. Neal and Del never knew each other before this wild trip began. I like how Neal has doubts about Del at first. He’s not a very open person. Steve Martin gives a wonderful performance, especially when he was so exasperated to the point where it looked like he was ready to explode like a volcano. You have to give him credit for his memorable one minute "F bomb" scene with Edie McClurg after finding that his rental car was stolen and he has to hitchhike all the way back to the rental station.
John Candy delivers a powerful performance as Del Griffith. I have always enjoyed movies with Candy. He is such a warm, inviting, and genuinely kind person. He was even described that way in real life. Candy’s portrayal of a good hearted man willing to help Neal no matter the cause is so touching.
Watching the film on a second viewing, the hidden details about Del’s sad past are right in front of you. Analyzing film has become a passion of mine. I’ll note a couple instances where Del’s pastis brought up. As soon as the plane makes an emergency landing, Neal calls his wife. Del calls a hotel making a reservation. And there’s also Del’s important line, “I haven’t been home in years.”
And here’s another interesting fact. If Neal stayed in the airport he would have boarded the originally cancelled plane instead of following Del to the hotel. Listen carefully when scenes are flipping from Neal and Del in the hotel and then back to Neal’s wife sleeping with the TV on back home.
From directing, unique camera work, and even an inspiring soundtrack, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a feel good movie. The men grapple, bond, laugh, grapple more, and share a hug. It’s easy to miss that this story takes place in only two days time. When I watched the film the other night I realized that the hotel scenes are exactly 24 hours apart! Neal and Del’s friendship went from hostile to laughing and bonding over stories.
You know what else I noticed? They’re only on a plane and train for five minutes while for the rest of the movie they’re driving in a car. Road trips are my favorite. You just have the company of your family or friends. It’s easier to sight see and converse. That’s another wonderful message this film adheres to audiences. Road trips are worth it. Go take one.
Other then the wrong direction on the highway scene my favorite of all scenes is when John Candy delivers a stinging speech to Steve Martin who is ready to give up on him. And keep in mind, it’s only a half hour in. I could recite his whole speech, but instead I’ll leave you with this quote, “I’m the real article, what you see it what you get. I like me.” Those are words of inspiration. Nobody can change who you are. Only you can change.
Movies last forever. They’re pictures of stories, time periods and fellow actors who have passed on. John Candy will forever be a part of film history and in the memories of those who knew him. Steve Martin and John Candy’s chemistry meshed together to bring out an inspiring friendship that has touched many for 31 years.
Life may not go as planned. However, the unexpected may lead to fun and exciting adventures. Traveling can be the utmost stressful adventure that is so worth it in the end. Pay attention to little things and start a conversation with someone. You never know where it could lead.
I recommend Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It will forever be a Thanksgiving classic. If you have time over your Thanksgiving holiday, go ahead and watch it.