Within the movie industry, people generally had only a single thought about John Candy - a fat, funny guy. And let's face it, he was never going to get the lead role in Die Hard or Enter The Dragon. But as the viewing public knew, he shouldn't have been so easily written off, either.
Planes Trains and Automobiles is initially about one man, Neal Page (Steve Martin) who has cut it just a little fine to catch his flight back home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. In his haste, he loses cab after cab on the streets of New York, and finally gets to the airport in time to see the flight being delayed - but that is just the start of the nightmare. He gets bumped down to coach, and sits next to Del Griffith (John Candy), the most talkative shower-curtain-ring salesman it's possible to find. Loud, rude, and painfully blunt, Neal thinks that things can't get worse - but they do. Oh, do they get worse.
First, the plane is diverted to Witchita due to snow in Chicago. Then he can't get a room and has to share room, bathroom and bed with Del. Then the train they catch (after a sub-zero ride in the back of a pick-up with a snarling dog for company) breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Then the bus only gets them to St Louis. Then the car rental people gives him keys to a car that has been stolen. Then he accepts a ride from Del, only to have a wrecked and burned out vehicle finally impounded by the police. Finally, it looks like the truck driver will get them back to Chicago. But what will happen when they get there?
Steve Martin's role here is very reminiscent of his role in later movies, such as LA Story - much more restrained and on the whole better for it. It's down to John Candy to display the manic humour and emotional vulnerability that is normally Martin's forte. And he displays a depth of ability that belies his industry reputation. He died far too early. This is a great performance from superb actor. Look out also for the lady behind the Car Rental desk - it's the school secretary from Ferris Beuller's Day Off, using language that certainly would have landed her in detention.
This is one of my favorite movies. You also don't know what could possible go wrong next. And although much of the credit goes to the two stars, hats off also to John Hughes, for writing, producing, and directing a comedic masterpiece.