Film: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
"You're messing with the wrong guy!"
— Neal Page
Uptight advertising executive Neal Page just wants to get home to Chicago
for Thanksgiving Day
. Unfortunately, every mode of transportation somehow fails him and he is stuck with Del Griffith, a traveling shower curtain ring salesman who won't shut up. Through delayed planes, broken down trains and burned-out automobiles Neal and Del go from being at each other's throats to friends.
The film is probably best known for the sole scene responsible for its R rating; in which Neal, after being abandoned in a rental car parking lot where the car he rented isn't there, is forced to walk three miles back to the airport, whereupon he goes on a tirade
against the rental agent. But it is not so much said tirade, as the rental agent's response to it
. Roger Ebert
probably puts it best:
"The other great comic set piece in the movie is responsible for its R rating; nothing else in the movie would qualify for other than PG-13. This is Neal's verbal symphony for the f-word, performed by the desperate man after a rental-car bus strands him three miles from the terminal without a car. He has to walk back through the snow and mud, crossing runways, falling down embankments, until he finally faces a chirpy rental agent (Edie McClurg) who is chatting on the phone about the need for tiny marshmallows in the ambrosia. When she sweetly asks Neal if he is disturbed, he unleashes a speech in which the adjectival form of the f-word supplies the prelude to every noun, including itself, and is additionally used as punctuation. When he finishes, the clerk has a two-word answer that supplies one of the great moments in movie dialogue.
This 1987 film featured John Candy
and Steve Martin
in two of the best comedy performances of the 1980s
. The film was directed by John Hughes
, best known for teen angst films until that time, and is widely regarded as his magnum opus.
This film provides examples of:
- The Alleged Car: After being sideswiped by two semi-trucks simultaneously and set on fire, it still ran.
State Trooper: Do you have any idea how fast you were going?
Del: Funny enough, I was just talking to my friend about that. Our speedometer has melted and as a result it's very hard to see with any degree of accuracy exactly how fast we were going.
- And the radio somehow still worked as well. Practically nothing else on the dashboard survived, but the radio? No problem.
- Amoral Attorney: The lawyer at the start.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In Kansas, Neal lists this catalogue of Del's sins against his sanity: spilling beer all over the bed, smoking and messing up the bathroom (all in the hotel), not paying for his share of the stay, and talking nonstop on the plane from New York. It's the latter than angers him more than anything else.
- Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The sole reason for Neal's rant. Hughes deliberately wanted the movie to be rated "R", because he felt that if it was rated lower, moviegoers would think he was just cranking out another teen angst film. And it's one of the greatest scenes in the movie.
- Angry Guard Dog: in the pickup truck that takes Del and Neal to the train station.
- Bed Mate Reveal: Neal: "Why did you kiss my ear?"
- Bittersweet Ending
- Book Ends: Neal's client in New York mulling over the pictures.
- Brick Joke: Three of them—two with short airtimes, and one that had been hanging for about an hour—come together to great effect: A hotel clerk swaps their credit cards, Neal puts his wallet in a rental car's glove compartment asking Del to remind him to remove it, and Del flicks a cigarette out the window only for it to bounce back in unnoticed. Del reveals he had the credit card and returned it to Neal's wallet—just as the car catches fire incinerating the wallet.
- During the movie, scenes of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner being prepared are shown. During The Stinger, you see the CEO of the company that Neal was giving the ad spiel to at the beginning of the movie, still hasn't decided on which campaign to use, with the dinner on the conference table near him. And, he was played by William Windom, Kevin Bacon's father-in-law from She's Having A Baby.
- Butt Monkey: Neal. Not a single thing goes right for him until the very end.
- Del, though he's more optimistic about it.
- California Doubling: Averted. The film was shot on location in New York, Missouri and Illinois.
- The Cameo: Three from other John Hughes movies; Kevin Bacon competes with Neal for a car, and then Ben Stein announces that all flights have been cancelled … and smiles. Finally, Edie McClurg has to endure the F-bomb rant.
- Car Meets House: The two back their burned-out car into the motel room wall, then quickly flee.
- Celebrity Paradox: Averted, sort of: At the beginning of the film, Kevin Bacon has a cameo as another commuter who races Neal for a NYC taxicab. Later, there's a scene where Neal's wife is watching television; while you can't see the screen, the audio is of Kevin Bacon in a scene from another John Hughes film, She's Having a Baby.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Neal's rant.
- Deleted Scene: Watching the movie on TV gets you an extra scene where Neal struggles to eat his airplane dinner.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The film takes place over the course of roughly 48 hours.
- Follow the Leader: Due Date, depressingly.
- Same with Dutch, another movie about a pair of dissimilar people from different class backgrounds struggling to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving … And also written by John Hughes.
- Foreshadowing: Take a close look at the stickers on Del's luggage. They're all just from hotels.
- From Bad to Worse: After Neal misses his cab at the start everything goes downhill. And THAT MEANS EVERYTHING.
- Groin Attack: Happens to Neal in St. Louis.
Del: "I don't think I've ever seen a guy picked up by his testicles before …"
- Had the Silly Thing in Reverse.
- Hanlon's Razor: Apply to Del.
- Hidden Depths: Del, and how. He finally reveals to Neal, at the end, that his wife's been dead for eight years, and he himself is a homeless drifter.
- If I Wanted X, I Would Y: "If I wanted a joke I'd follow you into the john and watch you take a leak."
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Neal's uptight and definitely something of a dick, but a lot of his tantrums can be put down to stress at his circumstances and the fact that Del, let's face it, is not the easiest of traveling companions. He's certainly genuinely devoted to his family.
- Karma Houdini: The thief who steals Neal and Del's cash never appears again.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Racing for a cab comes complete with Spaghetti Western stare-down and rock music.
- My Car Hates Me: Del in spades. Both as a passenger fiddling with the car seat and again while driving the Le Baron.
- Newspaper Thin Disguise: Used by Del in the airport.
- Nice Hat: Neal, until he goes ballistic over his rental car not being there. Del has one, too.
- No Sympathy: Outside of Del, no one really shows Neal much sympathy at all. The worst offenders are the people at the people at Marathon, including the cab dispatcher.
- Psycho Strings: Del: "Hey, Neal, take my socks out of the sink if you're going to brush your teeth."
- Odd Couple
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Neal gives a very harsh one to Del during their first night together.
- Del sends it right back with a heartfelt I Am What I Am speech.
- Neil's rant at the car rental agency also qualifies.
- Road Trip Plot
- Sanity Slippage: Neal goes through a little bit. Summed up when he phones his wife.
Susan: You shared a motel room with a complete stranger? Are you crazy?
Neal: Not yet. But I'm getting there.
- Shout-Out: The movie Mrs. Page watches on TV early on in the film is actually John Hughes' next film "She's Having a Baby."
Kristi: She's sleeping in our HOUSE!!! I'll have to burn the sheets!
Jake: What if the shoe was on the other foot?
Kristi: I'D GO BAREFOOT!!
- A Simple Plan: For God's sake, Neal just wants to get home for Thanksgiving.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: "You're messin' with the wrong guy!!"
- Someone's Touching My Butt: "Those aren't pillows!!"
- Stepford Smiler: Del is revealed to be one of these.
- Stupid Statement Dance Mix: A rare in-media example! The first time we hear this song is when Neal's luck reaches an all-time low once he misses the fucking ride back to the fucking rental car headquarters and is fucking forced to walk down the fucking highway and across a fucking runway, and again, during the first part of the closing credits, after "Every Time You Go Away."
- The Stinger: After the credits Neal's boss is still at his desk analyzing the ads, his Thanksgiving dinner sitting on his desk.
- Talking to the Dead: Del with his former wife Marie.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork
- Thanksgiving Day Story: The main premise of the story is Neal trying to get home for the Thanksgiving holiday, and that, no matter how dire things might seem, we all have something to be thankful for. It's delivered in such a way that even non-Americans can appreciate it.
- There Is Only One Bed: In Wichita.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Neal and Del gradually evolve from Type 1 (Del likes Neal, Neal detests Del) to Type 2 as Neal warms to Del and undergoes Character Development.
- Wardrobe Flaw Of Characterization: It's subtle, but the viewer can tell that John Candy's traveling salesman character's suit is off-the-rack and made of a synthetic material, especially by contrast with Steve Martin's successful, wealthy character, who wears one made of fine wool that looks custom-tailored.
- Wham Line: For what started out as a light buddy comedy, this one packs an unexpectedly huge wallop: "I don't have a home. Marie's been dead for eight years."
- Wild Take
- Wiper Start
- Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Averted if paying attention. When driving from St. Louis to Chicago, it would normally take about 6 hours, but they drive from what looks like early evening deep into the night and then drive for a while in the morning before being told that they are still 3 hours away from Chicago. However, if you look at the officer's State Trooper badges and the name of the truck's company, you'll see where they are. They went into Wisconsin.
- The Windy City