Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Planes, Trains and Automobiles ★★★★

John Hughes' "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" finds the director leaving behind his typically youthful characters and focusing on a new breed of comic ne'er-do-well: the adult business man. Combining road trip comedy with odd couple shenanigans, '80s gloss, and a note of absurdity, Hughes' observation of Murphy's Law taking its toll on the aformentioned adult is a rich, layered, and wholly lovable piece of work.

"Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" is built around one man's attempt to get home for the Thanksgiving holiday and his consistent predicament of bumping into a bumbling yet kind Midwest salesman. Anything that could go wrong does as the two schlep hilariously toward Chicago from New York. The story is universal, the comedy is textured, and the emotions, from warmth to icy anger, are sharp.

Hughes captures a steely-gray late 1980s world. Biting, melancholy, and buoyant, his production effortlessly shifts tones and comic types as his characters interact with that world. The film is light but carries a delicious edge, and Hughes deftly blends emotions. It is all both observant and spirited.

The leading cast, here, is one for the ages. Steve Martin is terrific as the ad-man whose every mode of transport home seems to disappear before his eyes. Cantankerous, focused, and completely put-upon, it is a great character and a great performance. As the yang to Martin's yin, John Candy creates a character who is larger-than-life, earthy, and magnetic. He may annoy Martin's character at every turn, but he supplies the film's heart and its rowdy silliness.

An ideal blend of what it takes to make a memorable comedy, "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" wears its edge, its ridiculousness, and its utter recognizability proudly. The film is sharp yet warm, real yet fanciful, and completely engaging. Hughes' film is a fully appealing good time.

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