While you can drum up a pretty solid list of Christmas or Halloween movies, Thanksgiving flicks tend to fall by the wayside. Granted, it can be a little difficult to make turkey, pie and overeating seem exciting for 90 minutes, but when a filmmaker can focus on the the less tangible aspects of Thanksgiving — the frustration of holiday travel, empathy and the importance of company with loved ones — you can concoct a holiday movie worth watching.
John Hughes not only pulled off that trick with Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but he did so while being hilarious and genuinely heartwarming without being preachy or overly schmaltzy. Part of that is due to ace casting. Steve Martin plays the slick, confident and well-cut Chicago adman Neal Page. John Candy is the bumbling, self-conscious and somewhat disheveled traveling salesman Del Griffith. On the surface that seems ripe for a slapstick, Odd Couple-esque travel film, but the two play to each other’s dramatic and comedic strengths and what we get is an unexpectedly emotional comedy.
In the film, the clothing choices of both characters reflect their personalities. Page spends the film in cool shades of gray, typical of an ad executive. Griffith on the other hand has a more eclectic wardrobe, characterized by brighter colors in a way that’s reminiscent of ’80s prep style and predates today’s hipster style. Both look good in their own way; after all, Page and Griffith are in the business of selling, and that requires a wardrobe that’s memorable, not merely presentable.