4K UHD Review: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Movie title: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Director(s): John Hughes

Actor(s): Steve Martin, John Candy, Laila Robins, Michael McKean, Kevin Bacon , Ben Stein

Genre: Comedy, Holiday, Drama

  • Movie
    (4.5)
  • Video
    (1.5)
  • Audio
    (3.5)
  • Extras
    (3)
3.1

I first saw Planes, Trains and Automobiles shortly after its November 25, 1987 theatrical release. A fan of director-writer producer John Hughes, his name in the credits made it a must-see for me. I laughed a lot and thought the pairing of Steve Martin and John Candy was pure genius. Watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles now, the film has aged well, still full of life. The humor is undeniable, but the films biggest asset is its characters. They’re relatable and we care what happens to them.

Marketing executive Neal Page (Martin) is heading home to Chicago from New York two days before Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, one disaster after another stymie his progress. Bad weather diverts his flight from Laguardia to O’Hare to Wichita, Kansas. Making things worse, he’s stuck next to the good natured but annoying Del Griffith (Candy) who wont stop talking. A shower curtain ring salesman, he’s armed with a series of dumb jokes and pointless jokes. Many of the disasters are inadvertently caused by Del, who remains cheery through it all.

John Hughes lets his talented leads steer the ship, generating a series of ridiculous situations that highlight their comedic strengths. Even so, Hughes never looses sight of each guys end goal: Neal just wants to get home to his family, while Del is perfectly content to stay out on the road with this stranger he would like to call a friend. The tension between them is palpable, until a bittersweet twist at the end.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles has become a Thanksgiving tradition for many families. Instead of the emotional disaster at the heart of the few turkey day movies out there—think Home for the HolidaysPlanes, Trains and Automobiles explores the desire to have a perfect Thanksgiving. Seeing Martin and Candy let loose is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours during the holiday season.

Sadly, this 4K transfer is a total disappointment. Sharpness varies greatly, due to inconsistent use of grain and DNR. Even at its best moments, the transfer fails to look as good as the 2012 Blu-ray release. Delineation and accuracy, suffers throughout, with only brief moments of clarity. Softness is perhaps the most consistent feature of this transfer, present in nearly every shot. On the positive side I guess, there are no real print flaws and colors appear accurate throughout. Blacks are inky and shadow detail seemed fine. Even so, I would advise holding off on this upgrade, in the hopes that Paramount releases an improved transfer.

Thankfully, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is pleasing. Front focused, the soundfield is engaging throughout. The music is cleanly spread across the front speakers allowing discrete effects to be heard. Surrounds are used only occasionally yet contribute to the track’s full involvement. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout. Depth is a bit lacking, but for a 35-year-old comedy, a pleasant audio experience is provided.

English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles are included.

Special features are included on the 4K disc. The Blu-ray disc only contains additional special features and not the film. A digital copy code is also included.

UHD:

  • Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast
  • John Hughes for Adults
  • A Tribute to John Candy

Blu-ray:

  • NEW! Deleted and Extended Scenes (1080p, 1:15:27 total runtime): From the disc: “This collection of extended and deleted scenes…was recently discovered in the archives of writer, producer and director John Hughes. The low picture and audio quality of this material is due to the age and format of the VHS tapes on which the scenes were found.”
  • NEW! Audition – Dylan Baker “Owen” (1080p, 3:34)