Thanksgiving is a holiday that is filled with many different traditions celebrated by many different people. Some people visit family and cook tons of different food, while others go out to eat. Some sit down to watch a football game while others get ready to put up their Christmas tree. My favorite tradition is watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Everyone who knows me knows that I am utterly obsessed with movies. A lot of times they can teach you about life. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is well-written, often hilarious, and extremely heartwarming.
Neal is trying to get home to his family and kids in time for Thanksgiving. The problem is that his flight has been rerouted due to a huge snowstorm. He is also forced to travel and bunk with the talkative Del who Neal finds extremely annoying. Together they must do all they can to reach their destination.
Why is it Great?
The movie is one of a kind for multiple reasons. Steve Martin plays Neal and is great in the role. Playing more of the straight man here, Neal is relatable as someone dealing with the troubles of holiday travel. We laugh because we understand how stressful the holidays can be. We see Neal slowly lose his patience as everything goes wrong gradually.
Del is a positive man. He is always looking on the bright side. He is usually causing things to go wrong but his heart is always in the right place. John Candy plays him and it is easily his best work. Candy’s character should be incredibly insufferable but he isn’t. You can’t help but like him. The portrayal is a hilarious one but also one that has so much heart to it. It is not an easy feat to have a character be both annoying and sympathetic.
The situational comedy throughout is easily some of the best. Whether it’s Neal and Del sharing a hotel room, or having their car catch fire, the jokes and sharp dialogue never quit.
At its core, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a story about not judging a book by its cover and being thankful for what you have. Neal and Del both come from different walks of life. Neal has a great job and family and is pretty bitter. Del sells curtain rings and doesn’t really have anyone, yet he is always so chipper.
Towards the end of the film, Neal comes to a big realization that I do not want to ruin here. It changes his character for the better and makes him realize he should appreciate things more.
John Candy has the best scene in the movie when Steve Martin yells at him. Neal tells Del how insufferable he is basically and Del has the perfect response in saying that he basically won’t let the negativity get to him. “Well, you think what you want about me; I’m not changing. I like… I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. ‘Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get”
Del is a great character who reminds us that we should appreciate what life has to offer us while being kind to others. However we celebrate Thanksgiving, it doesn’t matter. What matters are the people around us. Family, friends, and the guy who gives us our coffee every morning. The girl who helps pack our groceries. The people who come in and out of our lives who leave an impact on us and make us want to be better people.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a great movie that has a little bit of everything. It is full of serious belly laughs. It has multiple fantastic performances, life lessons, and great messages. Most of all it is my favorite Thanksgiving tradition simply because it reminds me of what I have, what I can offer, and what the love of family and friends can do.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is streaming now on Paramount Plus.