Two men try to make it from New York to Chicago in order to make it home before Thanksgiving Dinner. The weather does not cooperate, and as they make their way cross-country if they survive one anotherís company it will be nothing less than a holiday miracle.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the best film of writer/director John Hughesí career, which is saying something considering heís also the man behind 1980ís High School classics Ferris Buellerís Day Off and The Breakfast Club, two films I canít help but adore and treasure (more with each passing year). Yet, there is something about this very adult natured comedy about a New York businessman, Neal Page (Steve Martin), struggling to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving ending up in a holiday travel nightmare side-by-side with gregarious shower ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy). What should be just your simple odd couple on the road showcase becomes something much, much more thanks to Hughesí sharp script and the chemistry of the two stars, in the process becoming an indelible comedic masterwork thatís as heartwarming and insightful as it is laugh-out-loud hysterical.
The great thing about the film arenít the individual vignettes themselves (Neal and Dell in a hotel room, in a burnt out rental car, Neal chasing down a cab, his banter with an obviously tired yet still trying to be helpful travel agent, etc., etc.) but in how well they all fit together seamlessly inside the story itself. The urgency of this travel, what it ends up meaning to both men, the way their relationship gently segues into one of friendship, all of it feels so effortlessly natural.
Martin and Candy are incredible, and itís a shame they never got the opportunity to work together again as the potential for a magnificent Hope and Crosby-like series of follow-ups never got the chance to materialize. Both men ground their respective characters, make them real, three-dimensional, bit by bit revealing layers that make their journey all the more emotionally moving in the process. It is quite possible neither of them were ever as great before or after (and that includes Martin now) as they were here, each delivering career best performances that will be talked about and studied for generations to come.
After 25 years, Planes, Trains and Automobiles only gets better and more profound. It reminds me in some ways of Preston Sturgesí Sullivanís Travels as it has slowly become a cinematic road trip speaking to the core of who we are, the best of who we want to be and how the simplest of choices and actions can come to define everything about us. Hughes pears over the top of the walls we put up to conceal the inner person we donít always allow others to see, revealing, as clichť as it might sound, that home truly is where the heart is and friendship is one of the keys allowing for a happy, and in many ways successful, life.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.78:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono tracks and comes with optional English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here are ported over from previous DVD editions and include:
∑ Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (16:38)
∑ John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast
i. John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation (27:39)
ii. Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes (25:52)
∑ John Hughes for Adults (4:02)
∑ A Tribute to John Candy (3:01)
∑ Deleted Scenes Ė ďAirplane FoodĒ (3:24)
Nothing new here, but that doesnít make these additions any less wonderful. The making-of retrospective doc is solid, but itís the two-part John Hughes piece thatís the true belle of this particular ball. Both featurettes are really involving, filled with insights and thoughts from many of the filmmakerís coworkers (casts, crews, etc.). Hughes himself shows up in archival interviews, and as slight as many of his films might have been that doesnít mean that when he put all his faculties to work and truly immersed himself inside a project magic didnít happen. In relative quick succession he managed to be at the helm (or at least be a vital part of) some of the most significant comedies and dramas of the 1980ís and early Ď90s, and one canít help but wonder what might have happened had he chosen to make a comeback during the 2000ís before his untimely and tragic death.
The other three extras, the brief deleted scene, the two featurettes, are all fine if a bit slight (the John Candy tribute feels particularly threadbare considering he was a comic genius), and it would have been nice that for this Blu-ray release someone might have felt inclined to record a commentary track. Even so, this is a nice assortment of extras, and I doubt fans will be even slightly disappointed.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is, most days, not all of them (damn you Ferris Buellerís Day Off and The Breakfast Club!), my favorite film that John Hughes ever wrote and directed. Not only is it mature and thoughtful, itís also fiendishly, consistently and exuberantly funny. I love it, plain and simple, and while Paramountís Blu-ray presentation is far from perfect considering the price point and the quality of the film itself I almost canít help but give this disc my highest recommendation.