Planes, Trains and Automobiles Blu-ray Review

I get a sense of sadness whenever I watch PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES.  Not because of the film, which is one of the best comedies ever made.  It’s because when I watch it I’m reminded that two of the great talents that made the film are no longer with us; co-star John Candy, who died in 1994 and writer/director John Hughes, who passed away in 2009.  Both were amazingly talented men who left us way too early.

Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes Trains and Automobiles

Neal Page (Martin) has just completed his final presentation before the Thanksgiving holiday and he is in a hurry to get home.  Spotting a cab he heads towards it when he notices another person across the street trying to hail the same cab.  He sprints down the crowded Manhattan street only to trip over a trunk owned by one Del Griffith (Candy), an overly friendly man who you probably wouldn’t want to spend 10-minutes with, much less an extended road trip.  But once their plane to Chicago is diverted to Wichita due to bad weather that is exactly what happens when Neal reluctantly teams up with Del to make it home in time for Thanksgiving dinner.  Hijinks ensue!

Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes Trains and Automobiles

The fifth feature film to be directed by John Hughes, PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBIES was also the first Hughes film that did not feature a cast of teenagers.  Instead, Hughes cast two of the most popular and talented comedians of their generation and his casting instincts were brilliant.  Martin is the uptight and fussy one, a man used to flying first class who now finds himself sharing a bed with an overweight curtain ring salesman.  Candy is the awkward one, a man who has gotten by for years on his outgoing attitude and oversize personality.  Together they are like oil and water, finding and creating mishap after mishap that keeps them further and further from their destination.

Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes Trains and Automobiles

Candy had some fine performances, both dramatic (JFK) and comedic (UNCLE BUCK) in his career but to me PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES is his best on-screen work.  As annoying as he seems, you can’t help but see the sweetness (and pain) behind his eyes and in his face.  It is, to me, an award worthy performance and one of the best you’ll find in a John Hughes film.  Martin is Candy’s equal, with his profanity-laced tirade at a rental car station one of cinema’s best rants ever!

John Hughes was such a prolific writer that he pretty much created a genre’ all its own, the teenage movie.  No writer, before or since, seemed to have their finger on the pulse of the nation’s teenagers like he did.  But to me, it is this film that really showed his talent for writing.  With the exception of a few visual gags this is a film with nothing but conversations and if those conversations were boring the film would have been boring.  But there is nothing boring about PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES which, like turkey, should be a Thanksgiving tradition for your family.  It is for mine.


Video:  The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and appears to be a little muted color-wise.    Not a lot of brightness working anyway but still the images are a little murky and not sharp.

Audio:  The English soundtrack is presented in a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track and is the opposite of the video quality.  As I note in my review, this is a film built on conversation and the sound here is outstanding, ensuring you don’t miss a word.

Getting There is Half the Fun:  The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (16:38):  Excerpts from press day at Paramount, promoting PT&A.  Featured are writer/director John Hughes and co-stars Steve Martin and John Candy.  There are also interviews with crew members about working with the two actors.

John Hughes:  Life Moves Pretty Fast (53:01):  This is a two-part featurette.  Part One – “John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation,” enlists several of Hughes’ film stars, as well as the man himself, to talk about his films and how he creates them.  Part Two – “Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes,” highlights Hughes work with his cast and also highlights the importance of music to the man and his movies.

John Hughes for Adults (4:01):  A quick bit on the few Hughes films that don’t involve teenagers.

A Tribute to John Candy (3:01):  Also short, but it’s obvious that the people speaking about the late actor truly loved him.

Deleted Scene (3:24):  Titled “Airplane Food,” this is a fun bit featuring Candy, Martin and their in-flight meal.


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