The Monday Movie – Planes, Trains And Automobiles


I can watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles over and over without ever getting tired of it and it never gets any less funny.

Part of the enduring appeal is down to the outstanding script from writer/director John Hughes, which takes a very simple idea – a man trying to get home from New York to his family in Chicago on a busy holiday weekend, while the weather, public transport and the traveling companion from hell all conspire against him – and wrings every ounce of comedy potential out of it.

There’s barely a wasted moment in the film. Steve Martin and the late, great John Candy stagger from one hilarious disaster to another but no matter how ridiculous the obstacles put in their way or how slapstick the humour gets as their problems spiral out of control, the reasons for them having so much trouble getting from A to B never seem contrived or unbelievable.

Similarly, although Martin gets several chances to ditch Candy, and tries to, the reasons for them ending up back together never stretch credibility too far.

Nor does the film ever just become a series of loosely-connected sketches randomly stuck together – Hughes’ beautifully-structured script keeps the action flowing logically and ensures that the comedy serves the story and vice versa in perfect harmony.

The film’s other great strength is, of course, the teaming of Steve Martin and John Candy. Martin’s advertising executive Neal Page is a stand-offish, short-tempered, tightly-wound bundle of nerves and neuroses, while Candy’s Del Griffith, a shower ring salesman, is a well-meaning but infuriating oaf with a lot of charisma that is drowned out by his overpowering, over-familiar and needy personality.

It is a comedy pairing so perfect, it’s no exaggeration to say that this film is the closest modern cinema has ever come to recreating the genius of Laurel and Hardy, the undisputed masters of this type of comedy.

This week’s classic scene (warning: strong language) comes from around half-way through the film. Martin has finally managed to get away from Candy by hiring a rental car to get him the rest of the way home. Or so he thinks…

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