If someone were asked to name a filmmaker whose had a massive impact on American cinema, writer/director John Hughes is easily one of the first to come to mind. He directed eight films, each with their own respective fandoms, almost all of which are considered classics, and wrote many more. Among those is the Steve Martin and John Candy holiday comedy Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, celebrating its 35th anniversary and receiving a first-time 4K UHD edition from Paramount Pictures. Not only that, Paramount has unearthed a bevy of deleted and extended scenes they’ve deemed “Lost Luggage,” offering fans a chance to see over an hour of material that never made it into the finished picture.
Thanksgiving is two days away and marketing executive Neal Page (Martin) is impatient to return to Chicago from New York to be with his family. With his client indecisive, the minutes tick further away and the chances of making it to the airport for his 6 p.m. flight dwindle by the moment. Finally released, Neal does everything humanly possible to snag a cab, only for each one to somehow be stolen out from under him, the last one taken by a man, Del Griffith (Candy), while Neal argues with a lawyer over who got to the cab first. Each step of the way, Neal is faced with one obstacle after another and, each step of the way, his journey seems intertwined with Del’s. If the two can put their differences aside and work together, they may each have a chance at a happy holiday.
Let’s get into the reason we’re here first: the 4K UHD edition.
A film like Planes is perfect for 4K with HDR because its original negative is from camerastock and that produces a cleaner restoration than digital. There’s no indication in the press release from Paramount how the restoration/remaster was completed, what the source is, or who approved it, but the end result is something that fans of the film are going to be happy with. Set in November, there’s not a whole lot of color, but this doesn’t mean the film is drab, it’s just more natural in presentation. Cinematographer Donald Peterman, known for work on Flashdance (1983), Splash (1983), Cocoon (1985), and Point Break (1991), among many other classic pictures of the ‘80s and ‘90s, brings depth to the ordinary, whether it’s the expected grime of an independent, possibly seedy hotel whose room Neal and Del share or a car rental parking lot missing Neal’s rental. As with the best restorations/remasters, there’s natural grain in the image that doesn’t distract, the colors and tones are enhanced, and the film looks the best it may ever have up to now. Especially when Neal is traipsing through the snow from the car lot, the snow is a beautiful white set against Neal’s grey suit that’s growing more disheveled with each step. The HDR really helps the colors pop, not in a blinding way, but in capturing how it would look in a more true-to-form manner. For those curious about improvements to the soundtrack, there doesn’t appear to be a new audio mix included with this edition.
What is new, however, is over an hour (1:15:13, to be exact) of deleted/extended scenes. If you purchase the physical edition, all of these are included on the Blu-ray that accompanies the 4K UHD disc. There is no film on the Blu-ray, only the scenes and a brief 3 minute audition video for actor Dylan Baker (Spider-Man). These included scenes are untreated, but not raw. That is to say that there’s not just the raw dailies, they have been edited somewhat, but they lack the high visual quality of a finished scene; they’re grainy and appear to be in a standard definition format. For folks who love Planes or miss Candy, this is a fantastic opportunity to get a little more out of this 35-year-old film. If you’ve owned Planes previously and are curious about any legacy features, all of them are included in this edition, but you’ll find them on the 4K UHD disc only. Of course, if you opt for the digital edition, all of the features listed below are confirmed to be included.
As for the film itself, I understand why people love the film and have continued to make it a Thanksgiving tradition. This is Martin and Candy, two fiercely talented comedians possessing fantastic chemistry as an odd couple semi-forced together in order to get to their destination. The issue, in my case, is that it was never part of my traditions and, watching it now, it does little to resonate within me. Given the option, I’d rather watch Martin in Roxanne (1987) or Leap of Faith (1992) or Candy in Spaceballs (1987) or Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989), films which have them playing characters that don’t grate on my nerves as Neal and Del do. I understand that neither is a full-functioning human. Neal is incredibly tense and too tight-fisted to think beyond where he wants to go versus Del who’s happy to be anywhere and is not really focused on anyone else’s needs. It’s just that the film keeps piling on these two and it takes so long for them to find common ground that the pain inflected on them both ceases to be funny after a while. Not to mention that Neal’s aggression toward everyone in his way doesn’t ever become funny. Sadly, by the time the film gets sincere toward the end, when the shift in character occurs and one may start to root for the two, the movie ends. Just up and over. Sure, Neal’s made it home in time for Thanksgiving and Del’s provided an opportunity to engage honestly with people for the first time since his wife passed, so who knows what would happen next, but it’s almost as if the film is really getting started with these two when it’s over. Again, it’s not that I think the film should continue, it’s literally about the journey and how the journey transforms them both. I just wish that I cared about them *more* before I do.
With a film out for 35 years and the fans it’s garnered, my opinion on the narrative and character is moot. What matters here is whether or not the new edition is worth the coin you’ll spend before you pull out Planes, Trains, and Automobiles to kick off your Thanksgiving holiday. Frankly, if you’re a fan of this film, the deleted/extended scenes plus the lovely video restoration/remaster may be enough to warrant buying it immediately. Sure, there’s something about pulling out an old copy of a film you love that allows one to view their childhood with a certain fondness that new editions just can’t match. No one can fault that. No one can compete with that. But if you’re the sort who wants their holiday films to look their best, you can snag this with confidence. That it includes all the legacy features is really just a bonus.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Blu-Ray Special Features:
- Ten (10) Deleted/Extended Scenes (1:15:13)
- Dylan Baker Audition Video of “Owen.” (3:36)
4K UHD Legacy Special Features:
- Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles
- John Hughes for Adults
- A Tribute to John Candy
- John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast (2-Part Documentary):
- John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation
- Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes
Available on 4K UHD and digital November 22nd, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Paramount Pictures Planes, Trains, and Automobiles webpage.