Friday, November 25, 2011

Airways, Railways and Highways

The four of us watched "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" tonight; first time for the girls, latest of many for Audrey and myself, though I haven't seen it in years. Set during American Thanksgiving, the timing was spot on, so I'd requested it from the library earlier in the week.

It's still a darned solid comedy, especially for something nearly a quarter-century old (ugh). I'd stayed home with a blinding headache today that 600mg of ibuprofen could only dull, but thirty minutes of John Candy and Steve Martin banished it nearly completely. I wasn't sure how a nine and twelve year old would like it, but both Fenya and Glory laughed almost continuously and found the ending a little moving, which is as it should be.

I feel like PT&A should have at least a slightly higher rating in iMDB than its 7.5 out of 10, but that's me speaking as a fan and not necessarily critically. Most of the laughs are pretty broad and include topics like body odor, testicle injury and homophobia, but anyone who doesn't laugh at the "those aren't pillows!" scene the first time they see it is running a fairly serious risk of being wound too tight.

That being said, I remember trying to watch the film with my father years ago, but he found it unbearable because it was too similar to business or training trips that he had actually taken in his life.

Watching the movie this time, it occurred to me that I probably have more in common with John Candy's Del Griffiths than Steve Martin's Neal Page. I'm a heavy chatterbox more inclined to diners than bistros, and more likely to wear hats with earflaps than a snappy fedora. A first I found this a little upsetting; you naturally want to identify with Neal as the protagonist, who is smart, smooth, successful, and has a lovely family to boot.  But when Neal has his first set-to in the motel room with Del, the response is sincere, humble, and borders on the eloquent:

Del: You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I'm an easy target. Yeah, you're right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you... but I don't like to hurt people's feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I'm not changing. I like... I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. 'Cause I'm the real article. What you see is what you get.

I'm certainly not going to try to paint John Candy's boorish shower curtain ring salesman as some sort of role model, but upon reflection, there's worse fictional characters to share some attributes with.

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