PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES zooms, steams and rolls thru 92 consistently funny, occasionally touching minutes. Steve Martin and John Candy are a pair of situation-saddled companions on a Thanksgiving trip from hell, New York to Chicago via forced pit stops (accent on pit) in Kansas and Missouri. A genially observant hit from 1987, written, produced & directed by John Hughes, one of his fifteen comedies from the decade, this time taking a step away from his teen-centered capers. This one is the best of seven he made with the much-missed Candy.
“Those aren’t pillows!”
Ad exec ‘Neal Page’ (Martin, fresh off Roxanne), on his way home to Chicago for Thanksgiving with his family, is continually stymied by weather, flight delays and general bad luck, which seems to include meeting and then sharing travel modes with voluble goof ‘Del Griffith’ (Candy), who sells rings for shower curtains (the tub’s the limit). One mishap after another plagues their forced bonding as they bounce from Wichita, St. Louis and points between, encountering “typical middle-American types”.
Martin’s good, and his character’s exasperation is relatable, but Neal’s harder to like than the trying but sincere Del, Candy’s best, most well-rounded character (some would argue for his ‘Danny Muldoon in Only The Lonely); their domino topple of foulups bring them into funny bits with Michael McKean, Dylan Baker, Edie McClurg, Kevin Bacon and William Windom. Hughes makes neat use of bland-as-white-bread locales. One of those ‘been-there’ larks that gets more amusing with each revisit.
Cost: $15,000,000. Gross: $49,530,000. Rank in 1987: 22nd. With Laila Robbins, Olivia Burnette, Charles Tyner, Ben Stein, Richard Herd, Carol Bruce, Matthew Lawrence, Bill Irwin. The 92 minutes were edited down down from the original first cut of 3 hours, 45 minutes–yikes!