Could Planes, Trains & Automobiles still work today?

Steve Martin & John Candy Airplanes, Trains &  Cars (Image: Paramount Pictures)

Enter Steve Martin and John Candy Airplanes, trains and automobiles (Image: Paramount Pictures)
Graphic: Libby McGuire

This year marks the 35th anniversary of what is widely considered the best Thanksgiving movie of all time.Airplanes, trains and automobiles. Paramount is marking the occasion with a New remastered 4K release Includes over an hour of deleted scenes from the original film (which originally clocked in Three big hours) a two-hander starring Steve Martin and John Candy as a pair of traveling companions who can’t help but try to get home for Thanksgiving, it’s stood the test of time when it comes to brilliantly paced comedy beats, but it gets a little more so with each passing year. dated with possible Remodeling is in progress (Or if not, Will Smith’s image wasn’t considered in 2020 when the project was announced — imagine how that rental car meltdown would play out now) We got to wondering how much of Neil and Del’s disastrous journey could have been avoided today. With all the innovations at our fingertips.

In an age of internet-enabled smartphones, digital wallets, and apps like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, there are many solutions that make travel easier than it was in 1987. We even have virtual meeting software that reduces the need for travel. , so Steve Martin’s character wouldn’t even have to be in New York to pitch a physical ad campaign to that unsuspecting client. It wouldn’t be a movie without that business trip two days before Thanksgiving, but where does it stop along the way? Beat by beat.


Planes, Trains and Cars (9/10) MOVIE CLIP – My Dogs Are Barking (1987) HD

The first sign that we are living in a very different era is that the first thing Neil (Martin) does is check his watch. Except it was A watch from the 80s, time also stands out. He has a quarter to five A flight of six. The fact that he still expects to do that when he leaves the meeting shows how far we’ve come, and not necessarily in the right direction. This may be one instance where things were simpler back then. Neil is more worried about holding up finding a cab than getting stuck in airport security (he actually hits a taxi in a memorable cameo by Kevin Bacon). With no Uber or Lyft service he has to pay a businessman for his cab, then loses it to Del (Candy) as opposed to meeting him.

Neil arrives at the airport at 5:58 thinking that if he rushes, he will still be able to board the plane. There’s no waiting to go through security, no ID or ticket checkpoint (the TSA didn’t exist yet), so he sails in (we don’t actually see this, but the timing suggests only a few minutes between arriving at the airport and reaching his gate). We’ll never know if he actually made the original flight because it was already late by the time he got to his gate.

When Neil finally got on board with him Paper ticket He finds that he has been assigned a coach seat after paying for first class. Could it happen now without the passenger knowing before boarding the plane? Neil and Del meet for the third time (after a messy airport encounter) as seatmates, cementing the growing rivalry between them. Unfortunately, a blizzard in Chicago forced them to land in Wichita, something that still plagues travelers today. However, the latter is a different story.


They are not pillows! – Planes, Trains and Cars (10/10) MOVIE CLIP (1987) HD

What’s the first thing you do if you’re forced to land unexpectedly in a random city and have to spend the night? Go to your phone and start looking for a hotel room, right? If that fails, you can turn to Airbnb or VRBO or a travel site for more options. What you don’t want to do is wait in a long line for a pay phone and risk all the local rooms being gone by the time you get to the front. That’s what happens to Neal, and that’s the lever Del uses to stick with him a little longer. If Neil had other options, he would wait out the storm and get on another plane the next day. That will be the end of the movie.

He has no options, but he goes with Del to the Braidwood Inn. Here’s another instance where a rideshare app comes in handy. They have to settle for the 80s equivalent of Doobie’s Taxiola, a dodgy cab with a shady driver who insists on taking the “scenic route” in the middle of the night. Both hand their diners’ cards (still there!) to the hotel clerk, who rings them up with a manual carbon credit card machine and shuffles them as he hands them back. This is probably still happening today, but the mistake would have been obvious long ago.

Even though a smoking room wasn’t specified (and you didn’t want to back then) Dell did smoke in the room. Don’t try to imagine what it should smell like; It is not a fun exercise. That night, while the boys are sleeping, a teenager breaks into their room and robs them (Fun fact: in a deleted scene, the teenager delivers pizza to the room earlier in the night and Del presses him on the tip, so this is his revenge). If the door had an electronic card reader like most hotel rooms do now, it wouldn’t be so easy for an intruder to get in. The next morning they have money left and one less thing to fight about.

A flight to Chicago still doesn’t look good (a weather app guesses it), so the next leg of the trip involves taking a train. They make it to Jefferson City before the train breaks down and they have to walk to a bus stop and catch a bus to St. Louis. Again, a Google search, a call to the credit card company and a rideshare take care of it all and Neil is home by Thanksgiving. End of the movie.


AF***ing Car – Planes, Trains and Cars (6/10) MOVIE CLIP (1987) HD

Without money for more tickets, Del goes into salesman mode and makes some cash-selling shower curtain rings (which are now mostly obsolete), he helps Neal, and after sharing food at a diner in St. Petersburg. Louis, they once again go their separate ways. Let’s take this opportunity to note how many pay phones Neil uses in this film to call home. His wife has no idea where he is so she cannot reach him directly. Thanksgiving is slow and slow. Slow down (as it slowly rises) she is able to address her with him. It is unbelievable.

Neil’s next travel misadventure involves crashing into a taxi stand with a set of car keys that aren’t there. The bus drops him off… and leaves him there. There is no other airport en route. He is completely stuck. again This final straw leads to the famous “party” attack targeting Edie McClurg as the rental car agent, after he has to drive through the snow across a highway and a real airport runway to get there. The punch line is that he has become a “girl” because he lost his paper rental agreement. If he didn’t already have access to it on his phone, but Neil wasn’t having such luck, it would be too early to look it up nowadays.

Del comes to his rescue again with a rental car that he somehow managed to get with Neil’s Diners Club card. He lights a cigarette like in the room, and we’re willing to bet he didn’t want to ask for a car where you can smoke. They may experience the near-death experience they face when they go the wrong way. Easily avoided by using a navigation app. It won’t help when the car catches fire.

The last hotel they spend the night at together won’t take their toasted credit cards (another phone call and this problem could have been solved too) so Neil trades his fancy watch to get a room. On their last leg, they are stopped by a state trooper (played by Michael McCain) who impounds their burned-out car. According to McKean, there was a cutscene where he tells them that they’ve overshot Chicago by about a hundred miles (a navigational term would also tell them this). Finally, Dell comes up with another rudimentary ride—a three-hour ride into downtown Chicago on the back of a cheese truck.

They seem to go their separate ways again, and if Del had asked Neal for his email address instead of his home address, he might have given it to him. Dell will definitely find him on social media and follow every account. But that might have taken away from the sense of reluctant separation that makes this scene so heartwarming. If Neil hadn’t put the pieces together on the train and gone back, there’s a good chance they’d never see each other again. We’re glad he did, because it makes for a perfect ending.

A skilled writer still can Airplanes, trains and automobiles Work in the present with a few modifications. Taking their smartphones out of the running early, for example — due to damage or theft or whatever — would put the modern versions of Neal and Del in a position very close to where they were in 1987. The question is not whether it can be. Done, but whether it should at least be consulted on the project without John Hughes. His gifts for characterization and storytelling, not to mention Martin and Candy’s performances, made the original more than a silly comedy error. The characters have stayed with us for so long because they are flawed people who fully understand, get under each other’s skin, and then go deeper to find the beating heart. That’s what keeps us coming back to this movie year after year, why it never gets old.


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