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Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

aka Planes, Trains and Automobiles

"Pack in the Laughter!"

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 93 mins · English · R (USA)

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From Everybody:

Required Thanksgiving viewing.

or my family, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles is a Thanksgiving staple that's required yearly viewing. This under appreciated John Hughes film has just the right combination of comedy and drama to make you laugh and cry, while still leaving you with a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end.

The movie's dialogue, camerawork, editing, and music all work in tandem to evoke the right reactions at the right times, but its greatest strength is the caustic chemistry of its leads Steve Martin and John Candy. They both give brave, yet grounded performances, which make them perfect foils for each other.

Despite its release in the 1980s, the film remains relevant for vividly capturing the nightmares of holiday travel from packed terminals to cancellations and weather delays. It also endures because of its moral: Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate the gifts you have and to share those gifts with others, especially those who are less fortunate. This lesson is one learned by Neal Page and drives him to do the right thing for his new friend Del Griffith by inviting him to dinner with his family. When the film ends on a freeze frame of Griffith smiling, you can't help smiling too, knowing that things will be okay now that he is in the company of new friends.

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Cast:

Small Neal Page
Small Del Griffith
Small Susan Page
Small State Trooper
Small Owen
Small Taxi Racer
No_movie_poster Marti Page
Small Joy Page
No_movie_poster Peg
No_movie_poster Second Motel Clerk
No_movie_poster Doobie
Small Walt
No_movie_poster Waitress
Small Wichita Airport Representative
Small
Small

Crew:

No_movie_poster April Ferry Costume Design
No_movie_poster Donald Peterman Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Paul Hirsch Editor
Small John Hughes Director
No_movie_poster Ira Newborn Original Music Composer
No_movie_poster John W. Corso Production Design
Small John Hughes Production
Small John Hughes Writer

Taglines:

"Pack in the Laughter!"

Plot:

Neal Page is trying to return to his family for Thanksgiving in Chicago after being on a business trip in New York. His journey is doomed from the outset, with Del Griffith, a traveling salesman, interfering first by leaving his trunk by the side of the road causing Neal to trip when racing an uncredited character for a cab, then moments later again by inadvertently snatching the taxi ride that Neal had bought from an attorney just before. The two inevitably pair up later and begin an error-prone adventure to help Neal get back to his home. Their flight from LaGuardia Airport to O'Hare is diverted to Wichita due to a blizzard in Chicago, which ends up dissipating only a few hours after touchdown in Kansas. When every mode of transport (including a train, a bus, and a rental car) fails them, what should have been an 1 hour and 45 minute New York-to-Chicago flight turns into a three-day adventure. To complicate matters even further, on the first night in Wichita, a thief breaks into the poorly-locked motel and steals almost $1,000 aggregate from the two men.


Neal frequently blows up at Del, blaming him for much of their misfortunes, including the robbery of the first night. These ravings are not all unjustified, as Del's carelessly discarded cigarette sets fire to the rental car, melting all but the radio. Del in turn regards Neal as a pretentious and uptight cynic while Del is less afraid to be himself. After much heated argument between the two men, a bond between them forms, and Neal finally manages to overcome his arrogance. Both men pull together to make their way home to Chicago, while Del manages to raise money by selling off his entire inventory of shower curtain rings, to kids and adults alike, who think they make good earrings.


Under the assumption that Del has a family of his own (he frequently mentions his wife Marie and puts a framed picture of her on his various motel nightstands), the two men part ways. However, Neal later pieces together some of the things Del had said about Marie during the journey, and realizes that Del is alone for the holiday. He goes back to the train station where the two had earlier parted ways and sees him sitting alone. Del tells Neal that Marie actually died eight years prior and that he has been alone and without a permanent home ever since. Neal, feeling sorry for the man who went out of his way just to get him home for Thanksgiving and having himself become a nicer person during the journey, invites Del to enjoy Thanksgiving with his family. The film ends with Neal finally returning home to his wife, children, parents and in-laws, and introducing Del to the family.

Release Dates:

Theatrical : 1987-11-25 : United States of America

DVD : 2000-11-21