As a teenager in the 1980's, John Hughes (Pretty in Pink) was my favorite filmmaker. He spoke to kids of my generation depicting on-screen many of the same thoughts and feelings my friends and I were having in real life. With a string of teen comedy hits to his credit, it seemed Hughes could do no wrong. He was known as an actor's director, and it was said he could notoriously whip out a film script in less than a week.
However, in 1987, he branched out, writing, and directing a more "adult" movie called Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Earning critical and audience praise, the movie has become a new cult classic and gets a traditional, annual holiday watching in many households throughout the country. This year, it also gets a new Blu-ray SteelBook release, out in stores now.
Two days before Thanksgiving, uptight marketing executive, Neal Page (Steve Martin; The Pink Panther), like so many in this country, is trying to get home to his family. Flying from New York to Chicago, Neal is delayed in New York and, because of heavy snowfall in Chicago, finds himself stranded in Wichita, Kansas. Only he isn't alone as an annoying shower curtain ring salesman, Del Griffith (John Candy; Uncle Buck), seems to pop up everywhere Neal seems to be. Seemingly stuck together, the unlikely duo spends the next two days on buses, in cars, and on trains trying to get to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Bringing two comedic geniuses, Martin and Candy, together on the big screen was a brilliant idea with obviously positive results. They deliver Hughes' dialogue beautifully, infusing it with their vocal and physical talents and interpreting each scene accordingly. Hughes was smart enough to offer some directions but to also allow the actors room to improvise and the result is a master class in creating characters that audiences can relate to.
The SteelBook is nicely packaged and houses a DVD disc along with the previously released Blu-ray. The video quality is good but there are moments where the "green screen" special effects leave something to be desired. The daytime scenes in the car reveal the actors were on a soundstage and the landscape as seen from the car windows was obviously added later. As a viewer simply remember to set your expectations low as the movie is close to forty years old.
The DTS-HD Master audio 5.1 is also not updated but the sound quality is very good with layers of ambient noise throughout. The dialogue is heavily frontloaded rather than spread out across the speakers but again, the movie is almost 40 years so newer technology is going to point out the flaws more than more recent movies would. Sadly, the extras are also previously released so if you own a copy of the previous discs, chances are you would already have seen these extras. They include: John Hughes: Life Move Pretty Fast, Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes Trains and Automobiles, John Hughes for Adults, A Tribute to John Candy, and a Deleted Scene.
As mentioned before, I love John Hughes movies as they truly "spoke to me" since I was primarily the target audience in the 1980s. However, I had never seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and this viewing makes me realize why that was. I have heard the movie was hilarious and so I was excited to be entertained by Martin and Candy. Sadly, my opinion doesn't blend well with other reviewers. Candy and Martin's humor is not particularly my favorite style, and I can say I laughed out loud a total of two times. So, while I can appreciate the actors' skill level and mastery of physical comedy, I can't say I found Planes, Trains, and Automobiles to be as funny as so many others do.