Blu-ray Review: Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Neal Page wants nothing more than to fly from New York to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his family. The problem is that every aspect of the universe seems to be rallying against him in achieving that very goal in the John Hughes’ buddy road-trip film, Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

The movie stars two of the greatest natural comedians of our time in Steve Martin and John Candy, and the chemistry the two have with one another is what really makes this movie hit on all cylinders. Martin plays Page, a high-strung advertising executive who spends more time on the road than he does at home. That isn’t set to change any time soon, as Page winds up in one of those everything that can go wrong will go wrong scenarios that sees him continuously crossing paths — and ultimately ending up on the same flight with — his polar opposite in Del Griffith (John Candy). After their flight gets diverted to Wichita thanks to a sudden blizzard in Chicago, Page and Griffith become unlikely traveling companions who will try every possible means of transportation in order to make it to their destination in time for Thanksgiving.

John Hughes based the film off of his own experience of a trip he took from New York to Chicago that was diverted to Wichita and ended up taking him five days to get home. However, during that time it’s very unlikely that he ran into someone as unintentionally irritating to him as Griffith is to Page. The dialogue is sharp and fun, and Hughes always finds a way to one-up the previous bout of bad luck that these two characters have just overcome that not only gives them a new obstacle to face, but also gives them reason to have to stick together no matter how much they (well, Page at least) want to go at the journey alone.

Martin is fantastic as Page, really bringing to the attention of the audience that this is a guy who loves his family and just wants to go home. Sure he may be a little tightly wound, though, underneath it all he’s a good man. Martin also has a razor sharp delivery that shines many times throughout the film. One of the main reasons he did the film was because of a scene that involves his character unleashing all his built-up frustrations upon a rental car clerk. Not only is this one of the funniest scenes, it’s also the breaking point that really kicks the movie into high gear and opens a floodgate of laughs that don’t stop until the end of the film.

John Candy is also great in what is easily one of his best and most memorable roles. Making Del Griffith someone who’s both irritating and sympathetic isn’t an easy task, but Candy pulls it off with flying colours. Again, the perfect chemistry that he shares with Martin just adds another layer of polish to two already shining performances.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles is still incredibly funny to this day. It does start off a little slow, however, once Page rips into the car rental clerk the film hits all the right notes the rest of the way. The performances of Martin and Candy along with the touching and laugh-out-loud script by John Hughes prove why these guys are and were considered three of the best in their respective fields that the industry has ever seen.

The film looks fantastic. There are a few scenes that have a grainy look to them; however, the overall quality of picture found in most of the movie is sharp and easy on the eyes. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio also sounds great. The dialogue is incredibly clear and the music and sound all blends together perfectly, never causing the listener to strain to hear what people are saying.

There are a ton of extras on this Blu-ray. Some of them are transfers from the “Those Aren’t Pillows!” DVD Edition, while there are also some hefty John Hughes tribute extras that fans will surely cherish.

Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains & Automobiles – This featurette runs at 16 minutes and covers various topics of the film mainly through a filmed press conference Candy, Martin and Hughes held while promoting the film. It’s funny and interesting and gives a solid bit of insight into just how this film came to be.

John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast (featuring John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation (HD) and Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes) – There are two features in this category and both are great additions to this Blu-ray edition and definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the film or Hughes himself.

– First we have The Voice of a Generation, which runs at 27 minutes and 39 seconds. It’s a hefty piece that pretty much does what you’d expect and gives a retrospective of Hughes and his career.

– Next we have Heartbreak & Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes – This feature also runs at almost half an hour and is another great piece on Hughes, how he wrote, about him and about how music influenced the stories he created.

John Hughes for Adults – This is a quick feature that runs at four minutes in length and is more from the press conference the trio held earlier. It mainly focuses on a question asked by a reporter about whether or not Hughes intends to write for adults at times and teens at others.

A Tribute to John Candy – This is a three minute tribute to John Candy that pretty much praises him in every way you can regarding this film, his career and what everyone thought of him in a three minute piece.

Deleted Scene: “Airplane Food” – This is a three minute deleted scene that fits nicely into the idea of the film and is funny to watch here; however, it’s easy to see why it hit the cutting room floor as it was unnecessary and it would have thrown off the pacing early on.

This is the best copy of Planes, Trains & Automobiles available to own, period. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favour and pick it up. If you’re a fan of the film and own one or two copies already own a copy, this is still a great looking version and you should definitely not feel guilty picking it up.

Paramount Pictures presents a John Hughes Film Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Written and Directed by: John Hughes. Starring: Steve Martin, John Candy. Running time: 92 minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: Sept. 27, 2011. Available at

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