By Chris Crymes
Photo courtesy of Sopitas.com
Late semester exams, students scrambling across campus with projects in hand, increasing traffic, pumpkin spice everything, Christmas decorations put up too soon – Thanksgiving must be drawing near.
For some, the fall-feasting holiday is a time of familial relaxation, a time to gather around family for fleeting moments before jumping back to work and exams. Of course, that is if you get home in the first place.
John Hughes’ 1987 travel classic, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” may have released over 30 years ago, but it forever resonates for anyone who travels for the holidays. My father has made watching it a Thanksgiving tradition, so I’ve admittedly turned my brain off while viewing this movie for years. However, after this previous viewing, I started to notice some things that make this movie more than just a screwball comedy.
One can’t talk about “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” without starting with the two men whom the movie depends on: Steve Martin and John Candy. Do any other men exemplify ‘80s humor more than these two? From Martin’s cutting tirades to Candy’s openhearted, lovable goofs, the laughs genuinely don’t stop, but it’s not pure comedy. Martin has the remarkable ability to tell a conversation in a glance. With one fed-up grimace, you’re flashed back to every struggle along this treacherous journey from New York to Chicago.
Candy is no slouch in the acting department, either. In a shot toward the end, Candy presents a melancholy that’s seldom seen in his comedic career. Both men, along with a wild cast of one-off side characters give this movie enough heart and character to make it timeless.
Something I hadn’t noticed before is the movie’s editing by the legendary Paul Hirsch (“Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”). Hirsch brings some of the snappiest editing bits I’ve ever seen in a comedy. Early on, when trying to recall where he knows Candy’s character from, we get a peek into Martin’s thought process as Candy is framed in a cab from earlier inside the airport terminal for about one second before quickly cutting back to Martin’s look of disdain. Fast, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, moments of comedy are beautifully sprinkled into the movie with masterful precision. No surprise coming from one of the editors who famously saved the original “Star Wars” in the editing room alongside John Williams’ score.
While the film’s editing makes it witty and snappy, another big thing that struck me was Hughes’ writing and directing. As the movie plays out, it’s as if Hughes is playing on not only travel movie tropes, but also his own. The buddy road trip movie was established at this point, but look at Hughes’ filmography before “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” Movies like “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Weird Science,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” established Hughes as a director of teen movies with a definite series of romantic tropes he follows.
However, with “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” he starts to play with these same romantic tropes. Moments normally played as grand romantic gestures in Hughes’ other films are played flatly for bro-like friendship, and it’s frankly brilliant to see once you keep an eye out for it.
Due to distribution rights issues, it’s a little tough to find the movie on a streaming service. It is locked to an AMC add-on on Amazon Prime Video, but Tyler offers two pre-owned media stores for students on a budget. If interested in finding this classic or any others for a bargain, try Entertainmart in Broadway Square Mall or Game X Change on South Broadway in Tyler.