The Thanksgiving season stirs up nostalgic feelings, causing many of us to fondly remember the road trips we embarked on during the holiday season. It’s a time for reconnecting with family and friends, creating new traditions, and indulging in our favorite foods. For those of us who aren’t flying, the journey home can be just as memorable as the destination.
There’s no film that captures the stress and hilarity of a Thanksgiving road trip quite like the 1987 film Planes, Trains and Automobiles directed by John Hughes. This comedy is the perfect balance of heart and humor, making it a timeless Thanksgiving classic.
The film tells the story of Neal Page (Steve Martin), a high-strung businessman trying to make it back home to Chicago for Thanksgiving, and Del Griffith (John Candy), a lovable, but obnoxious shower curtain ring salesman who becomes Neal’s unwanted travel companion. What should have been a quick and uneventful journey, turns into a chaotic and unpredictable adventure full of flight cancellations, train derailments, and stolen cars.
The dynamic duo of Steve Martin and John Candy is what makes this film truly unforgettable.
Steve Martin’s performance as Neal Page is spot on. He delivers the perfect balance of frustration, stress, and anger, making us feel his pain, while still making us laugh. His character is relatable, especially to anyone who has ever had a stressful travel experience.
John Candy’s Del Griffith is the complete opposite of Neal Page. He’s loveable, talkative, and optimistically carefree. His way of life and easy-going personality are a sharp contrast to Neal’s. He serves as a reminder to Neal that sometimes all we need is a little bit of kindness and compassion to make a bad situation better.
The humor in Planes, Trains and Automobiles is both physical and situational. John Hughes masterfully creates humorous scenarios that are both hilarious and relatable.
An example of the physical humor in this movie is when Del implores Neal to “squeeze his bony ass in here” as they sit uncomfortably close in a double bed. Steve Martin’s reaction and struggle to move over to create some space is hilariously relatable.
Situational humor is also prevalent throughout the film. From the shared motel room between Neal and Del, to the rental car that catches fire, the situations they find themselves in just keep getting more and more absurd.
While Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a comedy, it’s not all about the laughs. The film has a heart and a soul too. The story emphasizes the importance of connection and compassion, and how it’s the strangers we meet on our journeys that can often make the biggest impact on our lives.
The moment when Neal realizes Del has nowhere to go for Thanksgiving is a turning point in the movie. Neal invites Del to join him for Thanksgiving, and the two form a special bond over the course of their journey home. The final scene shows Neal spending Christmas with Del’s family, emphasizing the importance and impact of the friendships we make along the way.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles has become a Thanksgiving classic, ingrained in popular culture and referenced countless times in movies, TV shows, and even everyday conversation.
For an entire generation, the film is synonymous with Thanksgiving, and watching it has become its own holiday tradition. The movie is an homage to the chaotic, but deeply meaningful journeys we embark upon with the people we love, and how those journeys can lead to lasting connections and unforgettable memories.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the perfect Thanksgiving road trip comedy. The dynamic duo of Steve Martin and John Candy, along with the remarkable humor, heart, and legacy of the film have cemented it as a timeless classic. This Thanksgiving, when you’re carpooling, taking a train, or arriving on a plane, remember the adventures of Neal and Del, and be thankful for the memorable journey home.