Planes, Trains and Automobiles Blu-Ray Review
Posted by Joseph Lee on 11.14.2012
The only movie that features Steve Martin and John Candy snuggling in a bed.
*Steve Martin as Neal Page
*John Candy as Del Griffith
*Laila Robins as Susan Page
*Michael McKean as State Trooper
*Edie McClurg as St. Louis Car Rental Agent
*Kevin Bacon as Taxi Racer
Story: A man must struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving, with an obnoxious slob of a shower ring salesman his only companion.
Trivia: Del thinks about travelling to Jamaica. John Candy later did in Cool Runnings.
It's both easy and cliched to say "they don't make movies like this anymore", but in the case of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, they really don't. It's a good, clean comedy that with the exception of one scene, has little cursing and even fewer dirty jokes. Even without the trappings of what seems to be a common theme in modern comedy, the film is absolutely hilarious. That's not to say modern comedies can't be funny with all of that, but it's rare to see a film that doesn't need it and can still be really, really funny.
The reason that Planes works is because we spend time with these characters who, even with their faults and quirks, are still very likable. They are stuck with each other and we sympathize because they're in an unkind situation. It just so happens that a lot of the bad things that happen to Neal and Del over the course of 90 minutes tend to make us laugh. I think that's because that while we personally may not have had these things happen to us (I would hope no one's ever escaped death after driving between two semi-trucks), they are very easy to relate to.
The plot is very simple and is mostly there to place Steve Martin and John Candy on a road trip together for the entire film's run time. Both want to get home for the holidays and are more or less stuck with each other as they travel the countryside. They're a typical odd couple, as Neal (Martin) is more straight-laced and easily-angered while Del (Candy) is an annoying slob.
Any comedy can take this formula and get a few jokes out of it. What makes this movie special is that John Hughes has managed to make real people out of his characters. Del isn't just an annoying slob, he's a well-meaning man who will try his best to do the right thing, even if it doesn't always turn out the way he wants it to. Neal, meanwhile, isn't a jerk. He just really wants to get home to his family and while he can't handle failure well, you can't really blame him for progressively getting more angered as life continues to kick him.
Obviously when you get comedic actors as fine as Martin and Candy together it's going to be movie magic. The two just work together tremendously, making nearly every comedic moment that much funnier. They're also both fine actors when they want to be (especially Candy), which brings more weight to the dramatic scenes that the film does contain. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles has a lot of heart, which only makes the entire film as a whole work more.
For those who love this film and have seen it multiple times, you know exactly why it works. It's hard to point out one specific moment when there are so many to choose from. I think my personal favorite would be the previously mentioned traffic collision, which features Neal inexplicably seeing Del as the Devil. It makes me laugh even thinking about it. Everyone else has their own moment ("Those aren't pillows" is pretty popular) that they remember fondly.
John Hughes was a great director and an even better screenwriter. This was the most adult of his films and that's only because it features adults instead of teenagers. But even then it's a great holiday film that everyone can enjoy, as long as you cover your kids' ears during the rental car sequence. Thanksgiving doesn't have too many films devoted to it, and this one is great to watch around that week.
If you've seen this movie before and love it, definitely check out the Blu-ray. If you're never seen this before and think of Steve Martin as the guy from those awful Pink Panther movies, educate yourself and see one of his finest films. You'll also get John Candy in a great role, and he's one of the greatest comedians of his generation.
For a film with a lot of dialogue, the audio needed to be great and luckily this audio transfer sound wonderful. Everything is strong and clear with no complaints. The music and sound effects are also mixed in well and do not drown out any of the talking, which is important. It's not amazing, but for a film like this it does it's job perfectly. The film is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD audio, with the options of a Spanish or Portuguese mono track. There are also subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
This is where those who are looking for a perfect, high-definition visual transfer are going to be disappointed. Don't get me wrong here: Planes, Trains and Automobiles looks good. In fact, it looks better than it ever has. But there there are a few problems here and there common for any older movie. There is some dirt and grain every so often and the noise reduction used to compensate results in varying levels of contrast. But unless you're looking for these errors, they're not that noticeable and you can enjoy your film without worry. With a film like this, you're going to be too busy laughing to worry about how pristine the video quality is.
Getting There Is Half The Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (16:39): This was taken from a group interview around the time the film was released, along with interview clips with Michael McKean, Edie McClurg and others. It basically is a roundtable about the making of the film, including key scenes and casting the roles. My favorite was the story of the bed scene, which involved several takes because neither Martin nor Candy could stop laughing.
John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast (53:31): This is split into two parts: John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation (27:39) and Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes (25:52). It's one long documentary about the career of John Hughes, using interview clips past and present of the people who worked with him, and archival interviews with the man himself. If you have any love for the man's work at all you will appreciate this story. Hughes really was the voice of a generation, even if it wasn't his own. It's too bad he was chewed up by the Hollywood machine to the point that he got out and only wrote scripts pseudonyms after. Like Lea Thompson, I would have liked to have seen one more great film from the man.
John Hughes for Adults (4:02): Just a short feature about Hughes focusing on adults this time around instead of teenagers. Could have probably just been added somewhere into the main "making-of" feature.
A Tribute to John Candy (3:01): Another short segment, this time talking about John Candy's comedic timing, his ability as an actor and his real-life personality.
Deleted Scene (3:24): This is called "Airplane Food" and features Neal and Del eating airline food. It's actually funny, especially the eventual punchline. I would say the reason it was cut was for pacing issues.
There are two fluff pieces but the rest are worth watching. while most of this was moved over from the "Those Aren't Pillows" DVD, the Hughes documentary is new and in HD. It only adds to the Blu experience.
Special Features: 8.5
The 411: Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a comedy classic and one of John Hughes' best. Even 25 years later it's still a hilarious ride and worth watching. The blu-ray features a lackluster visual transfer, but the audio and special features make up for it and any fan will want to have this in his or her collection.