What You Never Knew About Planes, Trains and Automobiles
November 24, 2014
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. And welcome to another installment of...What You Never Knew.
(The logo of What You Never Knew is shown with two large eyes)
Voice: I never knew that!
NC: It's that time of year again, Thanksgiving. And we're here to look at the timeless classics that always pop around this holiday. That's right. All two of them.
(Posters of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving are shown, with Home for the Holidays added in a second later)
NC (vo): Three if you're desperate.
NC: And seeing how you probably need a break from A Peanuts Halloween and A Peanuts Christmas...by God, they will consume every holiday! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM?! THEY'LL TAKE OVER THE WORLD!! Let's take a look at Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
(Clips from the movie are shown)
NC (vo): This is not only one of the best Thanksgiving movies to watch every year, but it's also one of the greatest comedies of all time. The writing, the acting, the anger, the joy, the sadness, the redemption, it's just a little bit of everything. And, like most great comedies, there's a ton of little touches that you may not have noticed were right in front of you the whole time. And we're here to look at them here today. They're not behind the scenes or nitpicking plotholes, they're just the kick-ass little moments you never knew were making the movie even more kick-ass.
NC: So let's not waste any time. Let's take a look at Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
(The logo "What You Never Knew About Planes" is shown, with the movie's logo moving on the left as the sound of a plane engine is heard. As the numbers count down, the movie's title will be shown moving left in the background. The number 16 is shown)
NC (vo): Being a John Hughes production, it's no big shock that the home in this movie is in Chicago. But did it have to be the exact same house from Home Alone? Yeah, look pretty similar, don't they? A lot of people have speculated that this is the same house, but if you look closely, you'll notice there are some differences. However, the house that was used for Home Alone, it turns out, is just a few miles down the street. So even though it's not the same home, you can say for sure that the Pages family and the McCallasters grew up practically in the same neighborhood.
Del: Those are the precious moments, Neal.
(The number 15 is shown)
NC (vo): We all know the calling cards of Del Griffin: giant suitcase, tons of clutter, and, of course, shower curtain rings. But even before we knew that, there were clues to his identity before he was introduced. For example, when Del accidentally steals Neal's cab, you'll notice that in the puddle where the cab used to be, there's, what else, a shower curtain ring. Blink for a second and you might miss it. There's a few other clues to his situation as well. He has this lie about work and family.
Del: I got a motto. "Like your work, love your wife".
Neal: I'll remember that.
NC (vo): However, when they get off the plane, Neal immediately calls his family while Del immediately calls a hotel.
Del: As soon as we got off the plane, you called home, I called the Braidwood Inn.
NC (vo): If you're supposed to like your work and love your wife, why didn't he call his wife, you wonder? Also, if you look closely at the stickers on the suitcase, you'll notice they're all just for hotels. This makes sense, as those are the only places he'd be able to visit and get memorabilia from. Probably better than the mementos Neal took back from his travels.
(Neal is shown looking at a pair of underwear in disgust)
Del (off-screen): Take my socks out of the sink if you're gonna brush your teeth, all right?
(The number 14 is shown)
NC (vo): Cameo time! Hi, Michael McKean! Hi, boy from Mrs. Doubtfire! Hi, lawyer from Jurassic Park! Hi, Ferris Bueller's father, and teacher, and principal secretary! Hi, guy from the plane in Home Alone! You know, the "dangly ones" guy. And, of course, hello, seemingly pointless Kevin Bacon appearance! Yeah, this is such a strange little pop-in, isn't it? While many people wondered why he made such a quick and voiceless cameo, people have questioned if this could possibly be the same character from another John Hughes movie, She's Having a Baby. However, later in the film, we also see that She's Having a Baby is playing on television.
(A character is shown lying in bed and watching the movie on television)
NC (vo): So if this isn't in the same universe, how are those stories being played on TV? I don't know. Bottom line, there's definitely a connection here.
Neal: Not necessarily.
(The number 13 is shown)
NC (vo): We all hate watching the edited version of films on TV, right? They always censor the best parts and cut it down for time. Well, with this movie, you get the edits, but you also get something a little extra. It's a deleted scene where Neal's trying to eat his airplane food and, big surprise, a bunch of stuff goes wrong. It's really funny and I'm not sure why it was cut out of the original. You can see it on the special edition Blu-Ray or, like I said, just catch it on TV if you're ever channel-surfing. Needless to say, this is one of the few times where they added something instead of just taking away.
Del: You know, that's a damn rare thing these days.
(The number 12 is shown)
NC (vo): Speaking of censoring, back in 1987, this film would have no problem getting a PG rating. It is literally just one minute of film that tosses it into the R category. But by God, is it worth it.
Neal: You can start by wiping that fucking dumbass smile off your rosy fucking cheeks. And you can give me a fucking automobile, a fucking Dodgson, a fucking Toyota, a fucking Mustang, a fucking Buick!
NC (vo): It's so strange, because the F-word is not used anywhere else in the film. If people know they can use it as the result in a R-rating, then usually, they use it throughout the majority of it. But here, it's literally just one scene. Even the nudie shots of the women in the taxi could still get away with a PG rating back then. Yeah, I know. Ratings were weird then. Not like...now, where they take an eye out, that somehow gets a PG rating. (A clip from Alice in Wonderland of that exact described moment is shown) But needless to say, if this one moment was taken out, it would have no trouble allowing most kids into the seats. It's all because of a solid 60 seconds of 18 "fucks" being given. The fact that it is just this one scene and that it's used so many times makes the joke all the more better.
Woman: Oh, boy.
Neal: "Oh, boy" what?
Woman: You're fucked.
(The number 11 is shown)
NC (vo): Here's a piece of irony. It turns out that if Neal and Del just stayed at the airport, they probably would've made it back just in time. Yeah, it flies by real fast, but there is a scene where his wife is watching the news and they say that O'Hare is clearing up.
News reporter: Graphic is resuming at O'Hare field and flights will be moving out of there very shortly.
NC (vo): This means that this craziest experience only could've been avoided if he only waited a touch longer. That's gotta hurt.
Neal: Have mercy.
(The number 10 is shown)
NC (vo): John Candy was one of our greatest comedians and was always great at adding little touches in his performances. Del Griffith is no exception. Like, have you ever noticed how he rarely zips up his boots? This is probably because he enjoys letting his feet out like before.
Del: Oh. Oh, that feels good.
NC (vo): Also, he seems totally okay with putting cigarettes out in his grapefruit.
Neal: You're a miracle!
NC (vo): And just to add insult to injury on Neal's part, everything in his bag is either a bowel or gas-related product, guaranteeing that he's in for a really bad night. There's also speculation that his snoring is slowly to the tune of "Shave and a Haircut". It would drive anybody insane.
(Del snores to the tune of "Shave and a Haircut", snorting his nose twice to serve as the "two bits" notes, which annoys Neal. The number 9 is shown)
NC (vo): Part of the comedy is that they're always coming across strange and usually not very bright characters. For example, what's this guy's story with the mice? He just has a box full of mice out. Why? Another fave is when they pull into the office of this incredibly tacky hotel that has two signs pointing out that it's an office. What's the point of that? Why is it needed? Also, even though Neal's name is clearly introduced, this hotel manager gets it wrong immediately after hearing it.
Del: This is Neal Page. Neal, Gus Moony.
Manager: Glad to meet you, Nick.
NC (vo): Also notice that after Ben Stein smiles after delivering bad news...another strange thing to do...the destination is now changed to the word "Nowhere". This airport has a sick sense of humor.
Neal: How would you like a mouthful of teeth?
(The number 8 is shown. A scene is shown, showing Neal meeting Owen. Owen spits, wipes his mouth, and shakes Neal's hand, with an arrow pointing towards it)
NC (vo): Ew...
(The number 7 is shown)
NC (vo): You ever notice that even though they crash into a hotel room and leave without telling anybody, they're still polite enough to put their turn signal on? I guess fleeing the scene doesn't mean you have to have bad manners. Just strange priorities.
(The number 6 is shown)
NC (vo): Fans of the movie Airplane will recognize that this is the exact same shot often used in the film. Fitting, seeing how both are Paramount productions.
Neal: Here's a good idea: Have a point! It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!
(The number 5 is shown)
NC (vo): One of the fun little touches in this film is their ability to have you literally see Neal Page's thought process. In most movies, a character's point of view is represented through just getting a close-up of an expression or through dialogue. But here, they do it a little more cleverly. Scenes where Neal imagines Del as the Devil or imagining himself as a frightened skeleton are smart, but there's some visuals that require so much effort yet go by so fast that they're easy to miss. Like when Neal recognizes Del from the cab. It would've been so easy just to cut to a clip earlier of Neal seeing him. But instead, they blend both his memory and where he is into one single image. That means they literally had to bring a cab door, dress John Candy up again, and recreate an outside scene in an indoor scene. That's a lot of work for only a half-second of screentime. Neal's progression of thought to his conclusion about Del is also very natural. Most times, a character would just randomly think of a plot device out of the blue, but here, he starts off thinking about going home, then being romantic with his wife, then how he was accidentally romantic with Del, and then the two of them talking about what he was just thinking about, their wives and homes, which, of course, draws him to his final thought. This is a totally logical way the human mind would lead to this outcome. It's not 'til you see a film do it so smoothly that you realize how many films don't do it. It's very flowing and natural, and adds a lot to the experience.
Neal: One day, I'm gonna look back and laugh.
Del: (Chuckles) You think so?
(The number 4 is shown)
NC (vo): Speaking of which, you notice something else story-wise that this movie does differently? In most films about opposite personalities that have to get along, the big blow-up at each other is done in the last third, allowing the comedy and the lack of patience to build, which usually leads to where they make up in the last act. However, here, the blow-up happens in the first third, which is almost never done. Instead of following the same formula of other comedies, making it easy to predict, this gets that part out of the way early, so now you don't know exactly where the relationship is going to go. Because of this, it allows much more freedom for them to give a fresher take on their relationship. This makes the times when they do split up and get back together all the more memorable and all the more emotional. Even when Neal thinks Del stole his wallet, this misunderstanding would've gone at least 20 minutes in your typical comedy. But here, they wrap it up in just a few seconds.
Del: We were robbed!
Neal: Do you think so?
NC (vo): This is how great writers work with convention, but also change it around to make it something fresh and new, and one of the many reasons this film is so wonderful.
Neal: What do I do? I looked up at the sky.
(The number 3 is shown)
NC (vo): What the hell's in this hotel mattress to make these kind of sounds? (Several crackly sounds are heard) It's almost as uncomfortable as the scratching sound made shortly after. (The scratching sound is heard) I don't want to know what's causing either of those.
(The number 2 is shown)
NC (vo): You may notice Del has a black eye near the end of their journey. This could be due to a deleted scene, but maybe it's tied into this line.
Del: The driver's a little freaky about people riding up in his cab.
NC (vo): Was Del so determined to get Neal home that he actually took a hit from a paranoid attacker just to reassure them a ride? Nothing can say for sure, but it's totally a possibility.
Del: Is this a coincidence or what? (Chuckles)
(The number 1 is shown)
NC (vo): And the Number 1 Thing You Never Noticed About Planes, Trains and Automobiles is...there's two handprints stained on the wall above their hotel bed. It doesn't sound like much, but really think about it. What position would require someone to put stained hands just above their hotel room bed? Yeah...pretty subtle and pretty sneaky. But once you notice it, you can't stop looking at it. It just adds to the uncomfortableness of this situation as well as the hilarity of the set-up. Little touches like this that you need to look for are definitely the reason why so many people watch this movie every Thanksgiving.
Del: You see that Bears' game last week?
Neal: Hell of a game.
Del: Hell of a game. The Bears are a great team this year. They're going all the way. Oh, yeah!
NC: Are there any that we missed? Are there any little touches worth talking about? Well, leave them in the comments below and keep talking about a film that's definitely worth talking about. I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
(He gets up and leaves. The credits roll)