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Blu-ray Review: Planes, Trains and Automobiles: 30th Anniversary Edition

October 18, 2017

By John Corrado

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the seminal John Hughes holiday classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles has been reissued once again on Blu-ray.

The film of course follows uptight businessman Neal Page (Steve Martin), who is trying desperately to get home to his family for Thanksgiving, but is faced with a cancelled flight due to a snowstorm and ends up travelling on the road with the genuinely well meaning but somewhat overbearing stranger Del Griffith (John Candy).

This is one of those films that I have seen many times and on multiple formats over the years, and I still count it among my favourites.  I have fond memories of watching it for the first time on a VHS tape from the library when I was about nine or ten years old.  I’ve got a DVD that has been well played over the years, I now have two copies of the film on Blu-ray, and last year I even got to see it in a theatre at a special showing.  And Planes, Trains and Automobiles still holds up as well as it ever did, in some ways only growing more resonant as the years go by and I get older.

This is one of the best films John Hughes ever made in a sea of memorable classics, and it’s carried by the wonderful chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy, a pair of comic legends who are at the top of their game here.  Steve Martin is pitch perfect as the straight man in this situation, playing an uptight character who has to learn how to loosen up and let others into his life.  And there are few who would deny that the film features the late John Candy’s finest performance, not only showcasing his talents for comedy, but also his full range as a dramatic actor.

It’s impossible not to get choked up by the quietly heartbreaking way that Del Griffith responds after Neal Page finally snaps in the hotel room and mercilessly tears him down, a scene that is so affective because of the way that the camera lingers on John Candy’s face, which we see grow ever more sorrowful as the sequence goes on and the insults cut deeper.  The same goes for the deeply moving scene where Del sits alone in the car and it starts snowing, and the intensely bittersweet exchanges that follow between the two men in the hotel room afterwards.  The film becomes all the more poignant when you take into account the fact that John Candy passed away only seven years after it was released.

This is a film that still makes me smile, and the emotional final few scenes, which bring deeper meaning to the story, still get me every single time, building towards a poignant ending that plays beautifully off a series of reaction shots on John Candy’s face, perfectly set to Blue Room’s cover of “Everytime You Go Away.”  This is one of those films that nails the perfect balance between delivering laugh out loud comic moments and heartwrenching dramatic scenes, and thirty years after it first came out, the film remains a crowning achievement for all involved.

The Blu-ray also includes the deleted scene Airplane Food, which offers a delightful chance to see a little more material with these characters, as well as a good selection of featurettes.  First up Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which assembles archival footage from an old press conference with John Hughes, John Candy and Steve Martin, and it’s complimented by the nicely done pieces John Hughes for Adults and A Tribute to John Candy.

The bulk of the bonus features is John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast, an excellent documentary that is made up of the two extended featurettes John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation and Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes.  They feature interviews with some of the filmmaker’s closest collaborators, who fondly remember his uncanny ability to knock out a script in a few days, what he was like to work with on set, and how he chose to live out his final years off the radar, despite hopes that he would make a comeback before his untimely death.  It was put together a few years ago, but is filled with wonderful anecdotes, and is a must watch for any fans who haven’t seen it already.

The only problem is that, aside from the newly designed outer slip and the inclusion of a DVD, this is literally the exact same release as the one that was put out for the film’s 25th anniversary, right down to the same selection of bonus features.  So those who purchased that edition don’t necessarily need to spring for this one, but if you never got the film on Blu-ray, then now is your chance.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: 30th Anniversary Edition is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release.  It’s 92 minutes and rated PG.

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