I think I have probably seen this movie at least 25 times, i.e. every year since it was released in 1987. We even let our children watch it at impressionably young ages, long before they knew what the f-word was. (Okay, a black mark on my parenting record, but they survived.) We watch it every Thanksgiving and that is why Planes, Trains and Automobiles, directed by John Hughes and starring Steve Martin and John Candy in their greatest roles, is my Friday movie pick.
It is the story of two mis-matched guys, both apparently trying to get home for Thanksgiving. Steve Martin is the uptight ad man Neal Page who becomes burdened with Del Griffith (John Candy), an “annoying blabbermouth”, as his traveling companion. Everything that can go wrong, does. In our house we know the entire script and (annoyingly to any outsider watching with us) say the lines along with the actors. Many of the lines have entered the family parlance, and just a few words can set off the recitation of a scene:
Neal: Del… Why did you kiss my ear?
Del: Why are you holding my hand?
Neal: [frowns] Where’s your other hand?
Del: Between two pillows…
Neal: Those aren’t pillows!
Del: You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I’m an easy target. Yeah, you’re right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you… but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. 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.
Gus: Del Griffith! How the hell are ya?
Del: Well, I’m still a million bucks shy of bein’ a millionaire.
Hotel Clerk: Do you have seventeen dollars and a good watch?
Del: No I don’t. I have uh… two dollars… and a Casio.
Neal: You know everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You’re a miracle! Your stories have NONE of that. They’re not even amusing ACCIDENTALLY! “Honey, I’d like you to meet Del Griffith, he’s got some amusing anecdotes for you. Oh and here’s a gun so you can blow your brains out. You’ll thank me for it.” I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They’d say, “How can you stand it?” I’d say, “‘Cause I’ve been with Del Griffith. I can take ANYTHING.” You know what they’d say? They’d say, “I know what you mean. The shower curtain ring guy. Woah.” It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back – you would. Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea – have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the listener!
Well, I could go on and on (and I already have), so let’s just watch the movie!