Planes, Trains, and Automobiles DVD Review

Nearly everyone has been through some form of terror around the holidays. Whether it is not being able to catch a flight on time, realizing you've bought the wrong thing on Christmas Eve, or just dealing with the in-laws, it's a natural extension of what the season has become. Hardly any other holiday movie is easier to relate to than "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," directed by John Hughes. This brilliant comedy is a movie that should be viewed every holiday season, and maybe a few more times during the year as well. Neal Page (Steve Martin) is stuck in a board meeting, soon to be late for a flight that will get him home in time for Thanksgiving. When things don't go as planned at the airport, he meets Del Griffith (John Candy), a lovable yet infinitely annoying shower curtain ring salesman. Together, they become the flawless odd couple and their adventure becomes one that deserves a high-ranking spot in film history. Once you've experienced this film, you simply have to come back to it. The two lead actors pull viewers into every situation, no matter how absurd it may be, playing nearly every scene to perfection. Countless cameos, including Kevin Bacon and Martin Ferraro, add to the proceedings. Director John Hughes flawlessly evokes every bit of comedy from every scene, having experience with other films in the genre like "Uncle Buck" and "Ferris Bueller." The films only mishap is the ending. Though necessary to give some depth to Del Griffith, after crying through every scene due to laughter, the depressing finale has viewers leaving the film on a sour note. Regardless, this is a film that should be viewed everytime Thanksgiving rolls around in your home without question. (**** out of *****) Paramount presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. No pan and scan version is available. This is an uneven transfer, one that suffers from a ridiculous amount of grain one minute and flawlessly cleans itself up in the next. The black levels have been set a bit too high resulting in some hard-to-see sequences. Compression problems are evident, especially in the bright reds. The soft tone of the transfer eliminates any fine detail, but the print itself is almost free from any scratches or flaws. (***) Remixed into Dolby 5.1 for this release, the sound field is surprisingly active when it needs to be (the opening scenes in New York are quite immersive). The soundtrack also does a wonderful job of filling up the sound field, using every speaker. Otherwise, a few moments in the dialogue are a little scratchy, but this is a nice sound presentation for an older film. (****) Sadly, viewers get nothing in the extras department. A commentary would have been a wonderful touch since it's obvious everyone had a blast working on this film. This is a disc crying out for a special edition. (No stars) It's a shame we lost John Candy. He added so much to every film he was in, creating lovable and enjoyable characters no matter the situation. "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" is a perfect way to relive his unfortunately short career and also one of Steve Martin's best. It should be noted that the film is only rated "R" because of a tirade by Steve Martin in one scene when he walks into the car rental office. Skipping this sequence (even though it is one of the funniest in the film) makes this one perfect for family viewing.

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