Thursday, November 22, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) ***½

R, 93 min.
Director/Writer: John Hughes
Starring: Steve Martin, John Candy

A few months ago, I posted a rare Penny Thought about a movie I hadn’t watched in a while. I did it because I was without a Penny Thought due to a severe set of travel circumstances that didn’t allow me time to screen anything. The incident reminded me of the movie “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”, starring Steve Martin and John Candy as a pair of cursed travelers trying to get home for Thanksgiving. My post related my own travel experiences and really didn’t have anything to say about the movie. Here are my thoughts on the movie.

The first thing you may notice is that I’ve changed my star rating from four to three and a half. I probably hadn’t seen the movie for twenty years before last night. I remembered enjoying it, but I remembered better how much Roger Ebert liked it. Ebert loves this movie. I’d read his thoughts on the movie several times over the past couple of decades, and I’ve been meaning to revisit it ever since I learned of Ebert’s love for it. I finally have. Although I did very much enjoy it, I don’t think I hold quite the passion for it as Ebert does.

What is incredible about this movie is writer/director John Hughes’s ability to continuously, relentlessly build the desperation of Steve Martin’s situation. This is a strength in many of Hughes’s movies. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Sixteen Candles”, his two “Home Alone” movies, and most of his other films all show off this ability to a degree, but PT&A is probably the most blatant example of it. In fact, it’s practically all there is to the movie. Many of his other films are about other elements of life as well, but this one is just about how everything goes wrong and continues to go wrong for this man, who isn’t the nicest person in the world, but doesn’t deserve such difficulty.

If anything, the scene where Martin curses out poor Eddie McClurg for his car rental experience is worth the price of admission alone. The whole thing is a rather enjoyable romp and brings great memories of what John Candy and John Hughes gave us before their premature departures from this Earth.

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