Movie Review: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1987 movie starring John Candy and Steve Martin.

Synopsis: A workaholic advertising executive plans on flying home to Chicago from New York in time for Thanksgiving. However, when his flight gets cancelled as a result of a snow storm he, with the help of an inept shower curtain ring salesperson, tries to get to Chicago by any other means necessary. Only, whenever things start to finally be going his way, his bad luck continues to get worse.

Who's in it?


This is a movie I re-discovered a couple years ago and make every effort to watch at least once during the holiday season (usually around Thanksgiving) because, along with being a very funny movie, this is a nice, subtle, film about being thankful for what you have even when nothing seems to be going your way.

The thing I really like about this movie is the fact it is somewhat deceptive. On the surface, it looks like a film about an everyday businessman (Martin) being forced to deal with a buffoon (Candy). However, it actually has a lot more depth to it than that. Martin's character, in many ways, is as much of the problem as Candy's. In fact, there are plenty of times when he just isn't that likable of a person, in part because he tends to be too self centered and fails to recognize his impromptu travel companion is just trying to help him (though, admittedly, his help does sometimes make matters worse).

Of course, what makes this movie memorable is the wide range of extreme things that go wrong on their journey from Wichita, Kansas (where their plane was forced to land because of the weather) to Chicago. This included being robbed, having their train break down in the middle of nowhere and having their rental car catch on fire. With all the things that went wrong on their journey, it is easy to wonder if and how they would manage to get back to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

The twist at the end regarding Candy's character and the secret he's been hiding about his own wife was also somewhat interesting because, despite the numerous clues given throughout the movie, it did end up being a little bit unexpected. It also resulted in a very simple but memorable ending that I think did a great job bringing some closure to the movie and leaving the audience with a good overall feeling without being too much.

Final Opinion

There's quite a bit of swearing and other adult content in the film so I wouldn't recommend it as a family movie. However, if you're looking for a good laugh this holiday season, it is a film that is worth taking the time to watch at least once. It is definitely one of my favorites and a movie I don't miss the opportunity to see at least once each year.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 06/08/2016, StevenHelmer
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