Top 10 Christmas Movies #7: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Note:  Here’s Jeff’s take on #7.  Enjoy!

The only reason this movie is not higher on our list is because it is not a Christmas movie. It is a Thanksgiving movie and it is maybe one of the two or three funniest movies I have ever seen.Written and directed by John Hughes (who was involved in two other movies on this list and the ’94 version of Miracle on 34th Street) it stars two of the all time great comedic actors, Steve Martin and John Candy.  It is a shame that this team never collaborated again because when they did, it resulted in pure gold.

Martin plays Neal Page, a straight laced, sort of uptight ad executive who is on business in New York City. All he wants is to get home to his family in Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. His path crosses with Del Griffith, played by Candy, a friendly but uncouth shower curtain ring salesman. When bad weather strands them in Wichita this unlikely pair teams up to try and make it back to Chicago in time for Neal to get his turkey. Thus begins the road trip from hell.

Neal and Del find themselves facing every imaginable obstacle on their journey: robbery, biting  dogs, missing rental cars, the worst imaginable wrong turn, exploding cars, and uncomfortably affectionate bus mates just to name just a few. When you add the oil and water quality of their personalities to these foibles you get as many laugh out loud moments as I can remember having in any movie. (As I write this I have been giggling just thinking about some of them)

What makes this movie stand out though is that with the laughs comes real heart. Neal may be uptight but he loves his family. Del is obnoxious but he possesses more than meets the eye behind his goofy mustache.  The scene below is one of my favorites. Forced to share not just a motel room but also a bed Neal is driven to the breaking point by Del’s nighttime routine. He delivers a rant for the ages. It’s hilarious, but watch as Hughes with his writing and Candy with his acting take this from being simply a funny tantrum to a truly poignant moment.

This scene is followed up with one of the biggest laughs ever in a movie. I won’t spoil it here but after you see it the words “Those aren’t pillows!” will be forever burned into your mind.

This movie has become a part of my Thanksgiving routine. It gets the holiday movie viewing off to a fantastic start. (One warning: if you watch an unedited version of this movie on DVD or by streaming, it it does contain strong language. In one scene Steve Martin uses one particularly profane word 19 times in one minute. This is done for comedic affect and it is pretty funny but I didn’t want anyone to be caught off guard by it).

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