Self Film-Solation | Film 6 | Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Following on from yesterday’s exceptionally relevant and dark horror theme I thought I’d change things up with some good old classic comedy.
Comedy is probably the genre in which I have seen the highest percentage of what can be considered classics. However, this one had fallen through the net and when you ask people about classic comedies this is ever present.
I do approach these supposed “classic” comedies with caution as I’ve been deeply disappointed before. If you listen to the Young Frankenstein episode of the Pod, you’ll know what I’m talking about. But it is true that often for me these great comedies collapse under the weight of their own expectation. So, something I wanted to ensure going into this one was that I was as measured and fair as possible. As I have previously said, comedies are often fighting a losing battle as they are one of the only genres measured in an actual physical reaction (laughter). It was my aim to judge this as a film and not just as a comedy.
After all, it’s not a stand-up set.
Going in I knew the basics. The plot, cast and some of the more famous dialogue. The biggest draw for me were the two stars (Steve Martin and John Candy). Both considered legends, yet I have not seen a lot of either of their work, in particular that of Candy. I had seen him in many of his cameo roles or supporting roles, Space Balls, Home alone etc. But I’ve yet to see him as an out and out star (no I haven’t seen Uncle Buck). Whilst I’d seen some of Steve Martin’s work (Cheaper by the Dozen as well as others that don’t come immediately to mind and I’m too lazy to google) I wanted to see them both in something in which they shined.
I wasn’t disappointed. The chemistry between the two really zings and gives the film an added edge that two lesser actors probably wouldn’t have brought to the table. The odd couple pairing is not a new concept. It wasn’t new in 1988 and it certainly isn’t new now. But the comic chops of Martin and Candy breathe real life into John Hughes’ script. Oh, I forgot to mention, Hughes was another reason I wanted to watch this as I’ve always enjoyed his work and was keen to see more of the late great man.
The film also gives us multiple types of comedy, something that’s not easy to do but the film carries it off with a flourish. Whether that be the witty dialogue-based comedy that’s a constant throughout the film or the slapstick sequences involving Candy’s character Dell. Even throwing in some cartoon type throwaway gags for good measure. It walks that line between real and the cartoon absurdity which makes it all the funnier and more likeable.
Like a lot of good comedies, the film isn’t without some heart. The realisation at the end of the film as to the reality of Dell’s situation is beautifully written and adds some additional satisfaction to the film’s ending.
Having said that the film is not without its flaws. I found the music to a be a little distracting at times. I am not musician but I’m not sure constant synths and drum machine beats lend themselves to emotional monologues. That music is very much of the time and its easy to see why that trait came and went so quickly.
The famous “fucking” rant at the car rental clerk also seemed a little out of place. This is the only reason I can see that the film is a 15 certificate and it really jarred me as I watched it. Up until this point, and afterwards, the film seems like a family friendly type of romp. But then this scene comes and goes without really adding anything to the film. I love a good swear I do, but it must be well placed, and this just wasn’t. It could have been just as funny if it were done without swearing but it seems like a case of a writer doing something because they can and not because it fits.
Also, I don’t know if this is me being harsh, but I’d struggle to forgive someone who outright stole my credit card, charged a rental car to it and then wrote off that car by driving like a complete idiot. But hey…. Thanksgiving is apparently a time for forgiveness! I wouldn’t know being all British and bitter.
Despite what I said about judging this as a film and not as a comedy, I must say it lacked one or two more laugh out loud scenes for me. Whilst I was constantly chuckling, I think I only laughed out loud maybe once. That being said I still enjoyed it both as a film and as a comedy. So perhaps that’s a little hypocritical of me. But… y’know… I’ve been inside for like a week now so whatever.
Overall, it was a well-done comedy that was a tight 92 minutes of storytelling with a nice touch of emotionality at the end. Whilst the comedy wasn’t always to my taste it was perhaps more that the film was slightly weighed down by its own reputation which led me to expect constant belly laughs rather than the consistent chuckle-fest I got. But I can certainly see why it has become a classic. The charisma and chemistry of the leads really make it all the more enjoyable as well as being an easy and pleasurable watch. One to stick on the tele on those lazy Sunday afternoons me thinks. Maybe just skip the car rental rant if the kids are in.
Originally published on Tumblr on 26th March 2020