A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a classic 1987 John Hughes-directed comedy in which two opposite characters, a loquacious salesman played by John Candy and a cynical advertising executive played by Steve Martin, face one setback after another while trying to get home in time for Thanksgiving. The consistent use of profanity in this movie may override its many humorous scenes and, as such, may not be appropriate for younger kids. In one scene that adults may find funny, an irate Steve Martin employs "f--k" repeatedly while arguing with a rental car agent; in another, Candy jokes about picking up pickup sticks with his "butt cheeks." Expect some smoking and drinking. The film does impart a few moral lessons, such as the value of family and not judging a character by his first impression.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, Neal Page and Del Griffith couldn't be more unlikely traveling partners, let alone friends. Neal (Steve Martin), a wearied executive from the Chicago suburbs who has sat in on one too many business meetings, is desperate to come home to his wife and children for Thanksgiving dinner after his plane is indefinitely laid over in Wichita, Kansas. Neal repeatedly meets up with goofy shower-ring salesman Del (John Candy) in a series of coincidental encounters, beginning with Del's unwittingly stealing Neal's New York City cab. Throughout their journey, they spar with Midwestern hicks, motel clerks, a rental car agent, and law enforcement figures, traveling not only by plane, train, and automobile but by bus and even foot as well.
Is it any good?
There are some truly hilarious scenes in this movie, but they aren't very appropriate for kids -- at least younger ones. In one scene, the two men are forced to share a bed in a sleazy motel, and Del unconsciously cuddles with Neal in his sleep. When they wake up, horrified, Neal asks Del where one of his hands is. He replies, "Between two pillows." Neal exclaims, "Those aren't pillows!"
Given Neal's love-hate relationship with Del, he does not always serve as an appropriate role model. He repeatedly tells off Del and berates his oddball behavior. Yet even Neal realizes his bad behavior and regrets it on several occasions, and by the end of the film, the two realize that together they've accomplished more than they could separately. Overall, teens would get a chuckle from Planes, Trains and Automobiles's many escapades, and their parents would probably enjoy viewing it with them -- with the understanding that the humor is far from clean.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether a movie can still be funny without the use of foul language. Do you think Planes, Trains and Automobiles is funny?
How does this movie find comedy in two characters who are the opposite of each other? What are some other examples of movies in which the two lead characters are opposites?
How does this movie find comedy in the near-universal experiences many travelers face when trying to get home for the holidays? How does the movie exaggerate these universal moments for comedic effect?
- In theaters: July 20, 1987
- On DVD or streaming: January 8, 2002
- Cast: John Candy, Kevin Bacon, Steve Martin
- Director: John Hughes
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship, Holidays, Misfits and Underdogs, Trains
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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