Plot: Neal Page (Steve Martin) has just endured a hellish meeting with his indecisive boss, but as long as he catches his flight and makes it home, all of the frustration and boredom will be worthwhile. But his luck seems to be bad, as he loses several cabs and even pays a man to yield a taxi, only to have someone jump in at the last second and abscond with his ride. When he arrives at the airport, he meets the man who stole his cab, a shower ring salesman named Del Griffith (John Candy). The two couldn’t be much more different and Page is thrilled to part company, only to find his first class ticket switched to coach, seating him right next to Del. A miserable flight follows, only to have the plane land in Kansas instead of Chicago, then Neal can’t find a hotel room for the night, leading once again to Del’s presence. As the two try to make the best of this awkward companionship, will Neal’s luck turn around or is he doomed to miss out on Thanksgiving with his family?
Entertainment Value: I would rank Planes, Trains and Automobiles as one of the best comedies ever made, a masterful movie that is head and shoulders above most of the genre. The movie is able to conjure up genuine emotional depth and characters you can’t but connect with, while also being one of the funniest movies around, a truly rare feat to say the least. John Hughest is at the helm and delivers a dose of his signature 80s magic, blessed with incredible comedic leads Steve Martin and John Candy, who turn in some of the best work of their careers. Martin and Candy are gold here, the perfect duo to bring this odd couple dynamic to life and the chemistry between them is always on point, just two remarkable performances. I love how the movie gives them so many great scenes together, but also lets each have solo sequences that allow them to shine, such as Martin’s infamous car rental encounter. For me, it is one of the very rare movies where all the humor lands, from razor sharp dialogue to slapstick moments to absurd physical comedy, it all just works here. The pace is brisk and the movie packs a lot of humor into the run time, but it never feels rushed or forced.
While Martin and Candy rack up most of the screen time and carry the movie, some well timed, big pay off smaller roles are here as well. Edie McClurg is perfect as the car rental agent in Martin’s masterpiece of profanity, while Martin Ferrero, Larry Hankin, and Michael McKean also provide terrific supporting parts. But my personal favorite has to be Dylan Baker as Owen, the redneck truck driver who steals a scene and in this movie, boosting a scene from Martin and Candy is impressive. These small roles really flesh out the movie and are used in masterful ways, just at the right times and for maximum comic payoffs. As hilarious as the movie is, it also has so much heart and emotion, which is another reason it remains such a beloved classic. The emphasis on family resonates, as does the bond that forms between Martin and Candy. Given the pace and how many laughs are involved, the level of emotional depth is remarkable in this movie, very few comedies could even come close. In short, Planes, Trains and Automobiles earns a place among the funniest movies of all time and never fails to entertain, so it deserves our highest recommendation possible.