Planes, Trains & Automobiles
****/**** Image C+ Sound A Extras B+
starring Steve Martin, John Candy, Laila Robins, Michael McKean
written and directed by John Hughes
by Bill Chambers It took thirty years and multiple viewings before I finally realized that John Hughes's Planes, Trains & Automobiles is about many things, but mostly it's about a trunk. A behemoth fit for a starlet taking a cruise to Skull Island, the trunk is the property of travelling salesman Del Griffith (John Candy), who peddles shower-curtain rings for American Light & Fixture.1 Indeed, it's his avatar. Stuffy ad exec Neal Page (Steve Martin) trips over it while racing special-guest-star Kevin Bacon for a New York City cab at rush hour. It's fate. Del will obliviously steal the taxi Neal does manage to flag down, but it's not until they wind up sitting across from each other in LaGuardia that Neal puts a face to the trunk, reinforcing his bias against the moustachioed stranger--a sort of benign Ignatius J. Reilly who, between his girth and his luggage and, arguably, his indifference to Neal's boundaries, is the textbook definition of a man-spreader. The trunk disappears for long stretches, though it has a habit of bobbing back up into the frame the second you've forgotten about it completely. It's uncanny that way.