Thursday, December 17, 2009
Holiday Movie Review - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Those Aren't Pillows Edition
This year we finally got a Special Edition of another one of John Hughes Holiday Classics: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I love this movie and the new edition finally includes some decent enough special features. My only complaint is that Paramount chose to release this great film on DVD only, completely ignoring the Blu-Ray fan base. Last year we got new editions of two other Paramount comedy classics with new special features: Coming to America and Trading Places, for those releases Paramount put out the Blu-Ray editions simultaneously. So it really doesn't make any sense to have this film as a DVD only release.
John Candy was a wonderful actor and seeing this film again reminds us of how his talents truly went far beyond comedic acting. In the midst of all the mayhem there truly are some memorable, tender, and touching moments in this film and Candy is the heart of each and every one of those. A few weeks ago I talked about how much I love National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, another one of Hughes Holiday pieces. What both these films do so well is combining moments of extreme comedy and totally over the top gags with heartwarming moments of true human emotion, things we can all identify with such as Steve Martin's desire to come home to his family for Christmas and John Candy's need to hold on to the first true connection he's made with another human being since the loss of his wife.
Steve Martin who was once known as the "wild and crazy" guy is able to play the straight guy here to perfection with incredibly precise comedic timing. We truly get a clear sense of the rage building up inside turning this laid back individual into a ticking time bomb. By the time the bomb goes off in the brilliant scene at the car rental office when he tells the lady at the counter how desperate he's become by dropping the F-Bomb close to 40 times in less than 3 minutes we truly can't wait to see how far he'll go to get home and how much crazier he'll get before making it.
The reveal of Steve Martin and John Candy walking down the street together with the big trunk immediately after Candy's confession about the loss of his wife brings more joy to me than any film released in recent years ever could. I truly believe they don't make movies like this anymore. John Hughes ability to make everyday life such and adventure and to perfectly balance comedic mayhem with human emotions was a true art form and no one these days comes close to what he was able to do back in the day. The closing scene of the film is very emotional and to see the longing for family in John Candy's eyes is truly heartbreaking. A very unexpected but very touching and endearing finale to a tale about the most hellish odyssey two men could ever share.
The new DVD offers a couple of extras including a short tribute to John Candy cobbled together from old cast and crew interviews. The best of all the new features is the footage from the film's original press conference back in 1987 which Paramount put together on a huge airport terminal set on on the studio lot. We get to see some great interaction between John Hughes, Steve Martin, and John Candy as they share the stage to answer questions from the press. If you're a fan of John Hughes you know that as the years went on he rarely did any more interviews so this footage is a great find. There have been rumors floating around for years regarding an extended cut of the film since it was reported that Hughes shot over 600,000 feet of film, almost twice the industry average. According to Hughes there was a 3 hour cut of the film early on which he put together from tons of improv material Martin and Candy performed on set but it is locked away in a Paramount vault, and unfortunately none of that footage is included in this edition with the exception of a single deleted scene. The film was a critical and financial success. The film became one of the most successful comedies of the decade grossing over $150 million dollars from a modest $15 million dollar budget.
If you've never seen this film before or if its been years since the last time you saw it do yourself a favor and pick this DVD up. You'll be glad you did and you might even think twice about leaving town this Holiday season.