I feel like there is not much else to say about the motion picture known as PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES. When you hear the name, you instantly think back to the comedic exploits of Steve Martin and John Candy, two characters completely against type with one another, stuck together on a multi-day adventure of trying to get home to Chicago when their plane gets diverted. A small hit when it originally came out, the movie has taken on a complete life of its own in home video, TV screenings and becoming a tradition in many family homes for Thanksgiving celebration. It’s a movie I watch every year and most people you know have also seen it and will either quote a scene or a line from the picture. And that line usually involves pillows.
I think the biggest reaction people have is that they relate to not only being stranded or being delayed somewhere, be it when an airline delays its flight, your bus breaks down or train ride just gets cancelled. We have all experienced this in one way or another, and what’s great about the movie is that it has two people who adapt to the new adventure in-front of them, but they also become better people along the way.
Not only that, this movie is FUNNY and even pretty daring for its time. This was a bit of departure from the late-great John Hughes, who was known up until that time for more teenager and youth comedies. That and going over-budget with filming on location everywhere and clashing with the studio didn’t help either. The famous car rental scene at the airport gave this movie an R-rating, and Hughes didn’t care. PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES has remained a timeless human comedy of manners.
About the 4k Release:
Let’s get the good out of the way. A restoration HAS been performed here and the movie is finally in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, after previously being in a full frame 16×9 transfer. The movie does look better, however not in a full restoration that the recent WAYNE’S WORLD release enjoyed. This feels like just a slight upscale with a nominal amount of work done to its original look. There’s a LOT of digital noise and oddness in indoor sequences, in particular the opening scene in the New York office. I can imagine seeing this in a cinema back in 1987 and it would have had a lot more film grain and stability than what I am watching here in this 2160p, HDR/Dolby Vision transfer. It gets strong points for film grain, especially in outdoor shots. I feel like this could have looked more like a film print instead of a slightly scrubbed one. I also recently was able to see this movie in a theatre again but that too suffered from digital noise reduction.
The soundtrack is also perfectly fine in DTS Master Audio but nothing to demo your system with, and the always-bizarre Ira Newborn music score plays in good old stereo with all of its bizarre remixing, dialogue in the mix along with the infamous Red River Rock rendition that plays over the end credits. There’s just something about this music score (which Leonard Maltin famously called “awful” in his annual movie guide book and took “five demerits” off of his score) that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I also couldn’t live without it.
The bonus features spread over both the 4k disc (the “legacy” features In a strange addition, the 1.5 hours of deleted scenes is in an additional Blu Ray and that’s it. This is all a very strange decision, as Paramount could have easily just placed all the features from the 4k disc onto the Blu Ray AND included an additional Blu Ray transfer on the disc and bumped up the transfer quality for the 4k version. But anyway. The key selling point here are all of the much-awaited deleted and extended sequences, which were recently discovered in Hughes’ family archive. Be warned, however, that a lot of them are transferred from an old VHS tape and the quality is extremely poor in both sound and picture. I typically never like deleted scenes, but in this case I liked seeing some additional comedy between Martin and Candy, and there are some funny jokes in the hotel sequence (and there are a LOT of them that would have added 10-15 minutes to the run-time). It’s great to finally see these deleted scenes, even in a rough format, as many fans of the movie have been wishing to see them.
Overall, this is a strange release for PLANES TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES but the movie is so wonderful and as a movie I know I will return to, I’m still giving it a strong recommendation and one that you should still have in your collection especially if you have the tools to play 4k discs.
PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES is now available on 4k Blu Ray. Our thanks to Paramount for sending along a copy for review.