This film should really be called Planes, Train, Automobiles, buses, trucks, burnt-out cars and …well you get the idea. This John Hughes comedy is set during the Thanksgiving holiday and it has a plot foretelling, Home Alone, although acted out in reverse. Let me explain.
Instead of being stuck at home, home is, instead, the unreachable destination that Neal Page struggles to get to on a return trip from work in New York. As with many Americans, he is excited for time with his wife and kids over a thanksgiving dinner in Chicago. But Chicago is very far away and from the beginning everything goes wrong. He struggles to hail a cab, his flight gets delayed, and he must share a hotel room with a friendly but annoying shower curtain ring salesman named Del Griffith.
Their relationship is strained from the start as Del is the man who unknowingly takes Neal’s cab. They get fed up with each other, accuse each other of stealing, and in general take a strong disliking for each other at one point or another. Del’s genial nature is initially a major turn off for the reserved Neal who just wants to be home.
There comes a point where so much has gone wrong it does not matter anymore and, despite all the grief, they must either go crazy or laugh it off and become friends. Ultimately, they choose the latter and it ends up working out. Neal heads home thankful that Del was able to finagle his passage across country and then in a moment of charity he goes back for his new found friend. The truth comes out and Neal brings one more guest to his Thanksgiving dinner. Once more they carry Del’s hulking case together, this time up the front steps. He may have combated freezing snow, fire, and much more general discomfort, but most importantly Neal learns a little bit about himself. So it’s a travel comedy with a moral at the end.
Although my travel experiences certainly have not been this outrageous, I did relate to bits and pieces which made the film that much better. Furthermore, Steve Martin and John Candy are wonderfully cast alongside each other as complete polar opposites. There is a lot of fun slapstick and yet the characters never lose their humanity and so to the end we can still appreciate them, despite their flaws. However, I sincerely hope my thanksgiving is better than theirs. No promises, though.