Del, however, does something surprising. Instead of tossing Neal out and telling him he's on his own, Del puts up a defiant emotional wall that fills Neal with regret. If every buddy movie for the rest of time could study this scene and learn something from it, the world of cinema would be a better place. Before it occurs, Candy's performance perfectly mimics the worst kind of annoying pleasantness, and the jokes, though clever (like the taxicab chase featuring guest star Kevin Bacon), are sort of broad and harmless. But the argument scene is special, revealing an equal amount about both characters rather than merely providing a short-lived conflict. First of all, it's amazing how the viewer can relate to Martin both before and after his miniature rant; his barbs about making a conversation interesting are hilarious, and the look on his face after Del stands up to him is crushing. As far as looks go, though, the mix of battered-down emotional resignation and sense of dignity in Candy's eyes is astonishing. There may be dialogue, but Candy's conveyed the message before his character says a word, and the way Neal climbs back into bed as a silent sign of apology and surrender caps the scene perfectly.
And that's just the scene itself. There's plenty more in Planes, Trains and Automobiles that can be attributed back to it. For instance, as Michael McKean notes in the extras, it lets the audience buy that these two guys would end up sticking together. Unlike so many other comedies, there aren't any MacGuffins that Neal's bringing with him, nor any useless, silly ultimatums hanging over his head; he's just gotta have Thanksgiving dinner with his family, no exceptions. In his brief moment standing there before putting his hat back down, Neal is choosing not to leave, choosing to value Del's feelings more than the aggravation it causes him, and doing it once ultimately means he'll do it forever. In a later scene where Neal tries to suggest that he and Del should separate, you can almost feel that look on Del's face eating away at Neal inside, along with the self-awareness that he doesn't really want Neal to go.
The film touches carefully on the subject of Del's loneliness, never painting Del to be a sad sack but just a too-nice guy who's aware of his own shortcomings and can't do much about them. Neal, on the other hand, is merely frustrated rather than hateful. Del isn't around when Neal finally breaks in the movie's most famous scene, but even in that one moment, Neal is still raging about the experience rather than at anyone in particular. Hughes also writes in a quiet sense of karma. Neal only directly insults two people in the movie, and the first one cuts to the bone while the second punches him in the face, and Del, having already faced the brunt of Neal's anger, is right there to pick him up after his attitude has come back to bite him, ready to try chip away at Neal's guard once again. I don't know if people think of Planes, Trains and Automobiles as similar to Groundhog Day, but I'd say Neal's adventure is cut from the same cloth. To Neal, Del may be an overly talkative walking disaster, but he just can't help but relate to someone else in the same predicament, and when he adds up Del's personality in his head late in the movie, it's like an epiphany to him the way the world cosmically connected him to someone else.
Of course, I don't want to make the movie out to be a maudlin tale of regret. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a goofy, hilarious comedy, effortlessly slipping all of the above in beside characters like mildly deranged Owen (Dylan Baker) and his wife Joy (Carol Bruce), whose "first baby come out sideways", and a series of hilarious comic scenes that start with Del adjusting the seat in his brand new rental car and conclude with the vehicle on fire. I may give a slight edge to Martin as The Jerk or Candy in the otherwise-corny Cool Runnings (coincidentally, Del suggests he might go to Jamaica), but both actors are very, very funny.
I remember watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles for the first time when I was younger, and I just didn't get it. My family rarely travels, and some of it just went over my head. I watched it again a few years ago and thought it was funnier, but even then, it didn't totally click with me. Finally, as an adult (I suppose), the movie's comedy just makes sense -- not just the immense tension that builds as the problems keep piling up, but in all the other moods that tinge the movie. This is a film that intends to be more than just funny, and that's what makes it special.
The Video and Audio
Dolby Digital 5.1 also sounds noticeably cleaner and crisper than before, although the jump isn't as significant. Like all of Hughes' films, Planes, Trains has a great soundtrack, which is replicated with good use of surrounds, as is Ira Newborn's score. The film takes place in pretty much every setting imaginable, too, which it reproduces to good effect. English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.
The only other bonus on this disc is a single deleted scene, called "Airplane Food" (3:31). It's a nice inclusion, although nothing I'll watch repeatedly. The interesting thing is that it looks pretty good -- not as good as the feature film, but colors are pretty strong.
Of course, as the story goes, there's more than an hour of deleted scenes for the film, with Hughes often referencing a three-hour version of the film laying in Paramount's vault. I've also heard that Hughes eventually took the negatives for his movies out of the studio's possession and held onto them himself, so who knows which party has them now. This is certainly a better DVD than the previous edition, but a bigger disappointment than Martin being a no-show is the fact that no more than the "Airplane Food" scene (a television standby) was dug up for this supposedly special edition.
A trailer for Paramount television shows plays before the menu and isn't accessible otherwise. The bonus features, like the movie itself, are subtitled in English, French and Spanish.