One of the movies that ends up at some point in the lists that many have written about what movies they would like to see on DVD is "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", a 1987 film from director John Hughes that remains as one of the best comedies in recent memory - a perfect pairing of lead actors, some very funny laughs, and some genuine heart.
Steve Martin stars as Neal, a marketing executive going home for Thanksgiving from Manhattan. In the first of a series of misses, he loses the taxi he was going to catch, then the plane that he's trying to take home gets re-routed to Wichita, KS. In the middle of it all, he's been paired up with Del(John Candy), a shower ring salesman who talks too much, but is generally one of those guys who's too nice to tell to shut up. Both are engaging, sympathic and often very real characters who, thanks to the performers, are perfect together.
The two suffer through what seems to be nearly the complete "traveler's nightmare"; the plane is re-routed, they find themselves sharing a small hotel room; car-trouble and more. And yet, Hughes delievers enough funny lines and makes us care about these characters enough to cheer for them as they go through just about whatever could happen to them. Martin is at his very best here, not going over the top with the exception of a few well-placed moments. His timing is wonderful, and he has some very well-played emotional scenes towards the end of the film.
I think "Planes" has been so successful over the years for a number of reasons. Certainly, everyone can relate to being stuck somewhere. The film itself offers both some incredibly funny moments and some moments that are serious, but not overly so. Simply, it's a fantastic movie with some classic moments and performances.
VIDEO: Paramount delievers a very nice presentation for "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For the most part, the only problem with this presentation is some signs of age that appear now and then. Sharpness is a bit varied throughout the film; most scenes are above-average, but occasional scenes such as a couple of interior scenes, seem a bit soft at times. Detail is pretty good, and the film overall looks a bit better defined than I'd expected from a 13-year old film.
Again, I didn't see any problems with pixelation or shimmering, but I did notice some signs of wear on the print used. These seem mainly isolated to some areas of the film, and stay to minor flaws such as some slight speckles. These are noticable, but I didn't find them distracting. The image looks a bit grainy at times as well, but nothing major. Colors are very pleasing, looking natural and well-saturated, with no problems. Overall, the presentation finds itself with a few flaws, but I generally was very happy with how the movie looked.
SOUND: I was also very happy with how the movie sounded. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the main element of the audio still is the Ira Newborn score, which sounds warm and clean on this DVD, although it's still not a score I like too much. Surrounds are used mainly for the score, and although the film isn't agressive in any way, the presentation still is quite an improvement. Dialogue, which is the focus, sounds a little bit thin at times, but is usually clear and fine sounding.
MENUS:: Menus are very basic, with just cover art or film-themed images; no animation or score.
EXTRAS: Yikes. The announcement included some deleted scenes; the actual DVD includes nothing. Apparently, there were additional scenes that were included in a television version, but we don't even get a trailer here.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I've got to recommend "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"; it's simply a comedy classic that I'm happy to finally have in my collection. But I'm dissapointed with Paramount's DVD - for a movie that so many people were waiting for, to have not even a trailer is very unfortunate.