Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987.
Directed by John Hughes
Starring Steve Martin, John Candy, Michael McKean, and Kevin Bacon.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles arrives again on Blu-ray, this time in SteelBook packaging that also includes the film on DVD, along with a code for a digital copy. This is the same disc, complete with a solid line-up of bonus features, that Paramount has released before.
People (at least, in the United States) don’t usually talk about Thanksgiving movies the same way they talk about Christmas ones, but if there’s a film that epitomizes Turkey Day, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is easily one of the finalists in that category. Starring Steve Martin and John Candy, it could be easily described as “The Odd Couple take a road trip,” proving that you can always give an old trope a new spin.
Martin is Neal Page, an uptight advertising executive who just wants to get home to his family in Chicago for Thanksgiving. Candy is Del Griffith, a gregarious shower curtain ring salesman who wears his heart on his sleeve. When the flight they’re both scheduled to take out of New York City is diverted to Wichita, the pair end up in the last available motel room.
Thus begins a trip home that’s just as jam-packed as Ferris Bueller’s day off from school, as Neal and Del turn to different modes of transportation, including a train and a rental car, to try to get home. A variety of mishaps ensue, of course, and along the way, Neal learns a bit of empathy courtesy of Del. That might sound trite, but the way writer and director John Hughes handles it is pitch perfect. After spending an hour-and-a-half with this odd couple, it’s easy to crack a smile or two as the end credits roll.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles was released in 1987, proving that Hughes could make more than teen films as the Reagan years came to a close. He had no problem taking his knack for well-crafted dialogue and believable characters and applying it to a road trip movie with frustrated adults, rather than a high school setting with angst-ridden teens.
Paramount has decided to give this film another spin on high-def, and toss in an old school DVD and a code for a digital copy too, in a new SteelBook edition that was timed for the Thanksgiving holiday in the US. This is the same disc they’ve previously released a few times, so if you have one of those, the question will be whether or not you’re interested in the SteelBook packaging, which I’ll admit looks pretty sharp.
The studio also ported over all of the legacy bonus features, which include:
- John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast (two parts; 52 minutes total): Created for Paramount’s 2012 Blu-ray edition of the film, this is a poignant look at the filmmaker’s life, career, and movies. Many of the people who knew him well, including Martin and Candy, gave their thoughts, and Hughes himself shows up in archival clips.
- Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (16 minutes): This featurette digs into Hughes’ inspiration for the story and includes footage from a 1987 press conference attended by Hughes, Candy, and Martin. There’s also a fair amount of on-set footage that offers a glimpse into the making of a movie that looked like it was a lot of fun to shoot.
- John Hughes for Adults (4 minutes): This is a brief look at the filmmaker’s movies, like this one, that didn’t hit teens in the feels. (I’m sure plenty of teenagers enjoyed Planes, Trains and Automobiles, though.)
- A Tribute to John Candy (3 minutes): This is an all-too-brief tribute to someone else who left the world way too young. You can find a more comprehensive tribute on the Spaceballs Blu-ray.
- Deleted scene (3 minutes): This excised footage shows Neal’s misadventure with airplane food as Del cheerfully comments on the action. It’s understandable why it was cut, but Hughes once said that there are a lot more deleted scenes from the movie locked away in one of Paramount’s vaults. Hopefully they will show up on a future home video release.
Unlike many movies on disc these days, the film’s trailer doesn’t round out the platter. That’s a bummer.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★★ / Movie: ★★★★★