Planes Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Dir: John Hughes
This is quite different from the films that are most readily associated with John Hughes, but it’s done so well that it has become one of the most definitive road movies ever made.
Neal Page (Steve Martin) is a marketing executive who is desperate to make it home from a business meeting in New York back to his family in Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. However being such a busy time of year, and weather not being great, his efforts are met with disaster at every turn as he keeps on encountering fellow traveller Del Griffith (John Candy).
Director John Hughes is best known for his 80’s classic teen movies, most famously things like ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and ‘Sixteen Candles’, yet here he proves that when he put his hand to other genres he could create enduring pieces too. It’s not in the teen genre at all, and with some strong language it isn’t general family viewing either, yet Hughes managed to insert certain hints of his usual charm and heart into this still.
In the passing 26 years this has spawned many imitators, the key pairing of straight-laced with madcap in a car is still being done now, for example recently ‘The Identity Thief’ came out, I believe it didn’t do well at all, but just from seeing the trailer I could tell that it clearly owes something to this. One of the reasons I expect that so few have managed to come close to this film is in the casting, the playing Steve Martin against John Candy is superb with both actors really doing some of their best comedic work.
Although certain parts have aged, and the story would be hugely different now in the era of smartphones, this still stands up well as a great comedy as the good humour is timeless, with lines like “those aren’t pillows” working perfectly well no matter how old the film gets!