Haunted Flower’s DVD Review of Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

1 Disc Widescreen Edition (1987)?

John Hughes wrote and directed many classic 80s films including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Breakfast Club”, “Sixteen Candles” and this movie, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. It’s a long title to say buddy-road-trip-movie, but it works and has his distinctive tones and themes and he was recently and very deservedly honored by the Academy for his achievements.

In this film Steve Martin’s character Neal is trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving and Murphy’s law is definitely in effect. All manner of bad luck happens to him, particularly his continued running into Del played by the hysterical and genuine John Candy. Hughes’ greatest gift is managing to take broad comedies like these and instilling them with just enough heartfelt moments to make you care about the characters instead of writing them off as incompetent idiots. The gags are wonderfully set up, the long-running jokes killed me, and watching this movie in 2010 really brings to light all the modern conveniences of people not carrying cash anymore, having a plethora of credit cards, and the obvious benefits of cell phone usage. This is a fun movie to play who’s who because of all the cameos from actors in his other movies as well as a quick taxi chase down with Kevin Bacon.

The major issue that comes to light is how inaccurate the travel times are in this movie. He tries to fly from New York to Chicago but because of bad weather, the plane lands in Kansas. ?!?!?! Of course, then he attempts taking a train that breaks down, a bus that doesn’t get them far, and later a rental car. At one point his car is stopped by a sign that specifically says 100 miles to Chicago. They still stop and stay somewhere overnight and when they do continue the next day, it is estimated it will take another three hours. What were the speed limits in the 80’s? Distance = rate x time, people! There is no way they would be forced to travel at 33 mph on the highway.

The other smaller issue is that you’ll notice this film has an R rating which is out of character for a John Hughes movie. It’s done mainly for one joke. Steve Martin in a fit of rage at a car rental calendar uses the F word every other word on his tirade against the woman who played the principal’s secretary in Ferris Bueller. It is done so at the end, she can use it once deservedly against him. When you’re watching it though, it seems so out of tone with the rest because they never really swear the rest of the movie and it easily could have been written without the F bombs and had an equally funny moment that wouldn’t feel so jarringly out of place.

If you can manage to ignore glaring inconsistencies on the distance and travel time (and even if you can’t), you will really enjoy the classic eighties background music and emphasis on a great story. This is a great buddy movie with ridiculous, yet feasibly possible circumstances that will get you right in the funny bone. There aren’t many movies out there that I would consider a “Thanksgiving” holiday movie, but this would count.

DVD Extras:

None. This has a widescreen version, subtitles, and an interactive menu. If you want features, I’d recommend the