This year marks the 35th anniversary of what is widely considered the best Thanksgiving movie ever made –Planes, trains and cars. Paramount celebrates the occasion with A New remastered 4K version Shows over an hour of deleted scenes from the original film (which was initially recorded on Three huge hours). Starring Steve Martin and John Candy as a pair of unlikely traveling buddies trying to get home for Thanksgiving, the double episode has stood the test of time when it comes to slick comedy beats, but with each passing year it gets a little more dated. with possible A new edition is in the works (Or maybe not, given Will Smith’s image isn’t quite what it was in 2020 when the project was announced – imagine what the rental car crash would be like now) We had to wonder how much of Neil and Dale’s disastrous trip could have been avoided today with all the innovation that we have at our fingertips.
In the age of smartphones with internet access, digital wallets, and apps like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, there are many solutions that make travel easier than it was in 1987. We also have virtual meeting software that makes travel less of a necessity, so maybe it wasn’t personal. Steve Martin even had to be in New York doing an actual ad campaign for this very indecisive client. Without that business trip two days before Thanksgiving, no movie, but where else would he have stopped along the way? Let’s take everything separately.
The first sign that we live in a very different era is the fact that one of the first things Neil (Martin) does is check his watch. Besides being Eighties watch, the time is also notable. It’s only a quarter of his fifth Six o’clock flight. The fact that he still expects fulfillment when he leaves the meeting shows how far we’ve come, and not necessarily in the right direction. Perhaps this was the only case when things were simpler at that time. Neil is more worried about getting stuck finding a taxi than getting stuck in an airport security line (he was actually beaten up for an available taxi by Kevin Bacon in a memorable cameo). With no Uber or Lyft, he has to pay a businessman cash for his taxi, then loses it to Del (Candy) on the reverse of a sweet encounter.
Neil arrives at the airport at 5:58, thinking he will still be able to board the plane if he speeds up. There’s no waiting to get through security, no ID or ticket checkpoints (the TSA isn’t there yet), so set sail (we don’t actually see this, but the timing suggests only a few minutes between arriving at the airport and getting to its door). We’ll never know if he actually made the original journey, because by the time he got to his gate, it was too late.
When Neil finally gets aboard paper ticket He discovers he has been assigned a coach seat despite having paid for first class. Could this now happen without the passenger knowing before boarding the plane? Neil and Dale meet for the third time (after an awkward encounter at the airport) as seatmates, cementing their growing animosity. Unfortunately, the forced landing in Wichita, caused by a blizzard in Chicago, still befalls travelers to this day. But what followed is a different story.
What’s the first thing you would do if you had to make an unexpected crash landing in a random city and you had to spend the night? Get on your phone and start looking for a hotel room, right? Failing that, you might turn to Airbnb, VRBO, or a travel site for more options. What you didn’t have to do was wait in a long line to get a pay phone and risk all the local rooms gone by the time you got to the front. This is what happens to Nell, and she is leverage that Dale uses to stay with him a little longer. If Neil had any other options, he would wait out the storm and get on another plane the next day. This will be the end of the movie.
He’s out of options, though, so he heads with Del to the Braidwood Inn. Here’s another example where rideshare comes in handy. They have to settle for the 1980s equivalent of Doobby’s Taxiola, a dodgy taxi with a shady driver who insists on taking the “scenic route” in the middle of the night. Both men hand their Diners cards (which are still there!) to a hotel employee who calls them a manual carbon credit card machine and shuffles them when they are returned. This may still happen today, but the error will be apparent much earlier.
Although no smoking room was specified (you weren’t required to go back at the time) Del smoked in the room. Don’t try to imagine what it must have smelled like in there; It’s not a fun exercise. That night, while the guys are sleeping, a teen breaks into their room and robs them (fun fact: in a deleted scene, the teen himself delivers a pizza to the room early in the night and Dale crucifies him on the edge, so that’s his revenge). If the door had an electronic card reader like most hotel rooms now, it wouldn’t be very easy for an intruder to get in. They would still have their money the next morning, and one less thing to fight for.
The plane to Chicago still isn’t doing well (a weather app might take the guesswork out), so the next leg of the trip involves catching a train. They reach Jefferson City before the train breaks down and have to walk to the bus station and catch a bus to St. Louis. Again, a Google search, a call to the credit card company, a rideshare will take care of it, and Neil will be home by Thanksgiving. The end of the movie.
Without any money for more tickets, Del switches to salesman mode and makes some cash selling shower curtain rings (which, by the way, are also out of style now), helps Neal out, and after sharing a meal at a restaurant in St. Louis. Louis, they again go their separate ways. We might also take this opportunity to note how many pay phones Neil uses in this movie to call home. His wife has no idea where he is, so she cannot reach him directly. She can only wait for him to call her with his travel updates as Thanksgiving approaches. It is unfathomable.
Neal’s next travel mishap is getting dropped off at a rental car park with a bunch of keys to a car that doesn’t exist. The bus dropped him off and…leave him there. There is no other airport shuttle on the way. He’s completely stuck. second. This last straw leads to the infamous “damned” tirade targeting Eddie McClurg as the rental car agent, after he had to walk through snow across a motorway and actual tarmac to get there. The rhetoric is that he’s the one who “fucked up” because he lost his paper lease. It would be easy to search nowadays, if he didn’t already have access to it on his phone, but Neil hasn’t had such luck.
Del comes to his rescue again with a rental car that he somehow manages to get with Neal’s Diners Club card. He lights a cigarette as he does in the room, and we’re willing to bet he doesn’t have to order a car you can smoke. The near death experience they face when going in the wrong direction on the highway can be easily avoided by using a navigation app. This was not going to help when the car caught fire.
The last hotel they spent the night at won’t take toast credit cards (another phone call and that problem would have been fixed too) so Neil trades in his fancy watch for a room. On their final trip, they are stopped by a state trooper (played by Michael McCain) who impounds their burning car. According to McCain, there was a cut scene where he told them they were about a hundred miles past Chicago (which the navigation app would also have told them). Finally, Del comes up with another primal ride—a three-hour ride in the back of a cheese truck to downtown Chicago.
They seem to be going their separate ways again, and if Dale had asked Neil for his email address instead of his home address, he might have given it to him. Del was sure to find him on social media and follow every account. But that would have taken away from the reluctant sense of parting that makes this scene so warm. If Neil doesn’t put the pieces back together on the train and back, there’s a real chance they’ll never see each other again. We’re glad he does, because he makes for a perfect ending.
An intelligent writer can still make Planes, trains and cars Working for the time being with some modifications. Taking their smartphones out of play early, for example – due to damage, theft, or something else – would put the modern versions of Neal and Del very close to what they were in 1987. The question isn’t whether it can be It was done, but whether it should be without John Hughes to at least consult on the project. It’s his talents for characterization and storytelling – not to mention the performances of Martin and Candy – that made the original movie more than just a silly comedy of errors. The characters stay with us for so long as they fully realize they are flawed human beings under each other’s skin, and then dig deeper to find the beating heart inside. It’s what keeps us coming back to this movie year after year, and why it never gets old.