Sunday, February 28, 2016

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - A Flashback Review

Steve Martin, John Candy


Planes, Trains and AutomobilesPlanes, Trains and Automobiles - 9/10

This is almost a perfect movie. In my opinion, I don't think you can ever give anything a perfect score, there is always something to improve on. But, Planes, Trains and Automobiles certainly comes close. Candy and Martin are as good as Hope and Crosby, Martin and Lewis, Cheech and Chong and Abbott and Costello. A great comedy team.

Steve Martin plays Neal Page, a high-strung advertising executive who lives the idyllic life. He's married, with children and has a great career. Then you have John Candy who plays Del Griffith, the exact opposite of Martin's character. A single, traveling salesman who is struggling with his career but puts forth the effort to be relaxed and good-natured no matter what life throws at him. Two polar opposite characters that get thrown together when bad circumstances happen. Starting off with Martin boarding a flight that has to divert to Kansas because of bad weather. He can't get out of the state until the next day so he is put up at a hotel by the airline. This is where it all goes down hill for Martin's character.

To start things off on the wrong foot, he's forced to share a room with Candy on the first night in Kansas, insulting Candy's character as an incompetent loser and slob, Candy defends himself by letting Martin know that he may be a screw-up and not everyone is going to like him, but he's comfortable in his own skin and that's good enough. Martin realizes that he's being a jerk and decides to let it go. During the night, a robber steals all of their cash.

They try to get to Chicago by train, but the train breaks down in Missouri, leaving the both of them stranded in a field.  Candy buys them bus tickets, but the tickets will only take them to St. Louis, where they part ways after Martin, again, insults Candy. Martin decides to rent a car only to find out that the car has already been rented. Seeing Martin walk through torrential rain, happy regardless of what's going on, only to come across the empty space where the car should be and the look of absolute disgust is genuinely funny. This leads to probably one of the best comedy scenes filmed, where Martin insults the rental agent for near on two minutes as she just sits there, stone-faced, taking the abuse. But, only after having to walk all the way back to the rental terminal. As it happens, Candy had rented the car using Martins credit card.

We get a great scene where Candy and Martin are finally on the road, Martin falls asleep while Candy is listening to the radio and "The Mess Around" comes on. Of course, this leads into a hilarious scene where Candy loses his cigarette, catches the car on fire, amidst driving on the wrong side of the road and almost getting them killed by two semi's. As they watch the car burn, Candy admits to Martin that the card he used to rent the car was Martin's and that Martin's wallet is still in the burning car.

They finally make it to Chicago. Martin and Candy go their separate ways. Martin finally realizes that Candy isn't going home himself. Candy, who lost his wife and lives on the road has nothing to go home to. Martin heads back to the bus station and sees Candy sitting there, alone. Martin invites Candy to stay with them for the holiday, making amends for being a complete jerk.

What makes this film great is the way the Candy and Martin play off of each other. Their characters are complete polar opposites, as I've written earlier. Martin is high-strung, driven and just wants to get home. Candy is jovial, good natured and a loner. The tension tht you can feel from Martin as his frustration builds, the comedy of errors every time they try to get to Chicago, and each situation they find themselves in, is what makes John Hughes such a great director. Hughes doesn't force the characters into a scene, he allows the scene to work around the characters. Hughes was such a natural at letting a scene unfold, like a good joke, until we get to the payoff.  It still has that "feel good" ending, but everything that leads up to that point works well. There isn't a lot of filler scenes or nonsense in the movie. There is nor moral to the story. It's a movie about two men who live completely opposite lives that wind up being together for a road trip that goes completely sideways.

It's a shame that we couldn't see these two pair up again. This was a comedy team that worked as well as any other comedy team up. John Candy and Steve Martin are the only two comedians that could make this movie believable without it turning campy. Under the direction of John Hughes, it turned out to be a classic. A comedy that all screenwriters should be using as their template for how to write realistic characters in unrealistic situations. If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
R | 1h 33min | Comedy | 25 November 1987 (USA)
A man must struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving with an obnoxious slob of a shower curtain ring salesman as his only companion.
Director: John Hughes
Writer: John Hughes

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