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“I’m sorry, I had no idea those beer cans were gonna blow like that.” “You left them on a vibrating bed. What did you think was going to happen?” John Candy and Steve Martin, respectively

Release Date: November 25, 1987 Runtime: 93 minutes MPAA Rating:R

Directed by John Hughes

It is not always easy to find a movie that can make you laugh to the point of tears. It’s even more difficult to find one that can crack you up consistently every time you watch it, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. For myself and many others, this is that movie.

Steve Martin is “cold-hearted cynic” Neal Page, a businessman in marketing, who gets out of a meeting late, has to rush to the airport (watch for Kevin Bacon’s brief appearance as the rival businessman chasing the same taxi-cab), and finds himself getting mixed up with John Candy’s character, Del Griffith, through a string of coincidences. Del, a traveling shower curtain ring salesman, unwittingly steals Neal’s rush hour cab ride, then finds himself sitting next to Neal on the plane. Because of bad weather, their flight is cancelled and lands in Wichita, leaving them to find other means of transportation to get back to Chicago. As the movie progresses, the two unlikely companions find themselves hitching rides, sharing cabs and rental cars, and being stranded at sketchy motels in an effort to get Neal back home to his family by Thanksgiving Day.

What makes the film so hilarious is Neal and Del's extremely poles apart, conflicting personalities; the timing and edginess of the dialogue, the exchanges of amusing put-downs and slams, and their reactions to the scenarios that they are placed in (both staying in a motel room with one queen-sized bed; a burglary; traveling unaware on the wrong side of the expressway.) John Candy and Steve Martin were perfectly cast – the Chris Farley and David Spade of the ’80s. Both performed their roles credibly, and with emotion. John Candy’s performance was particularly powerful towards the end of the film, as the story struggled between comedy and drama.

Fans of writer/director John Hughes will recognize the appearances of many of his films’ recurrent characters. There’s Edie McClurg (who played Grace, Principal Ed Rooney's secretary from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), who did a great job playing a too-cheerful automobile rental clerk in one of the film’s funniest scenes (which is also the reason the film is rated ‘R’.) She is the recipient of Neal’s long, obscene rant, but ends up getting the last laugh. Ben Stein (a Hughes favorite) briefly cameos as a flight announcer at the Wichita Airport.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles could perhaps be the predecessor to Tommy Boy, another comedy about a mismatched traveling pair. Fans of Hughes’ other work will undoubtably enjoy this film as much as I do.

“Didn’t you get the clue that I wasn’t interested in your stories when I started reading the vomit bag?” Steve Martin

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