My family has two Thanksgiving traditions: moving and watching “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” I’ve moved or helped someone move on or around Thanksgiving more times than I can remember. The most recent times were soon after the holiday, while in the cold winter of South Dakota. I don’t recommend it.
The other tradition, I think, started because I love John Candy. When I was younger, we went through a phase of watching every Candy movie we could find and happened about this nugget from director John Hughes. This Thanksgiving, I will get to renew this tradition with more of my family.
The movie follows Neal Page (Steve Martin) and Del Griffith (Candy) as two strangers traveling together, trying to reach home in time for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a classic road movie and Candy and Martin are perfectly mismatched. Neal is a tightwad, advertising executive and Del is a traveling shower curtain ring salesman. They meet, they split up, they are thrust, unwillingly, back together until they finally reach their destination.
Hughes as writer and director crafted a near-perfectly timed comedy that for some reason has never had the popularity of his other films. There are references to other Hughes films including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “She’s Having a Baby” and even the Hughes-written “Home Alone.”
Of the eight films Hughes directed, only this and “The Breakfast Club” are rated R so it might not seem like a family-friendly choice for a holiday tradition. The rating, however, is because of one scene in which Martin drops nuclear-grade F-bombs on rental car agent Edie McClurg. In exactly one minute, Martin says the f-word 18 times. Rarely, if ever, has swearing been so effective and so funny. You’ll have to find the clip yourself; this is a family paper.
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” has only a little in common with the road/buddy movies audiences are used to now. It’s much smarter than “Dumb and Dumber” and doesn’t have to try as hard to be funny as “Tommy Boy.” I guess back in 1987, audiences still needed a little heart to enjoy a film. Neal and Del both have moments to be strong and to be weak. Neither actor is funnier than the other but each gets to play to their strengths. Candy was at the height of his overweight, goofball best and Martin excels at playing the pretentious Page. It would have been easy to pair them together over and over but they never would have topped this movie.
My family has a quirky sense of humor. My youngest brother, Logan, grew up with this movie and when it was decided they’d all drive up here for Thanksgiving, the first question from him wasn’t, “Where are we going stay?” but “Do you have a copy of ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles?’” I enthusiastically answered, “yes.”
The bad news is that one of my brothers, Deken, and his wife won’t be able to make it for the family feast. They’re busy moving into their new home.
That’s my family. What are your unique holiday traditions? Thanksgiving traditions to the head of the buffet, but don’t be shy about sharing other holiday fun.
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