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Top 25 reasons to watch ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ on its 25th anniversary

By Wade Tatangelo, The Bradenton Herald –

Thanksgiving has been officially rocking the fourth Thursday of November since the Lincoln administration. But the holiday didn’t achieve its current level of awesomeness until 1987.

That’s the year John Hughes’ “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” opened the day before Thanksgiving.

A quarter century later, the brilliant bromance ranks as a Turkey Day viewing tradition rivaled only by parades (not really) and football (depending on who’s playing).  To celebrate the comedy classic’s silver anniversary, here are the Top 25 reasons to watch “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.”

1. Greatest Thanksgiving film: Unless you count the original “Miracle on 34th Street” — which you shouldn’t because while the movie starts on Thanksgiving it largely revolves around Christmas and Kris Kringle — pretty much nothing comes close.

2. Greatest film by John Hughes: The king of teen movies (“The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles”) gets mature; directing, producing and writing this deftly constructed picture that works equally well as a hilarious comedy and heartwarming ode to manly friendship.

3. Greatest performance by John Candy: “Stripes,” “The Great Outdoors” and “Uncle Buck” might feature Candy being more funny, but this movie remains his masterwork thanks to the tenderness he brings to lonesome shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith.

4. Greatest performance by Steve Martin: His stand-up comedy albums, “Saturday Night Live” appearances and “The Jerk” are filled with comic genius. But for overall acting, this is also Martin, as advertising executive Neal Page, in top form.

5. “Those aren’t pillows!”: The set up is superb with the two strangers spooning ever so sweetly. But the guffaws come when Neal utters those three magic words.

6. Car rental desk scene: The best use of the F-bomb ever. Martin drops it 18 times in 60 seconds. Today, this scene would probably be cut to avoid the box office-hurting R rating. Fortunately, Hughes had the pull and the chutzpah to tell the studio chiefs where to go.

7. Returning to the train station: A most poignant moment that secures the movie’s place among the all-time holiday greats.

8. The Chatty Cathy doll diatribe: Neal blasts Del for telling pointless, humorless stories in one of the mightiest, meanest and most amusing verbal smack downs in cinema history.

9. Del’s reaction to said diatribe: Candy’s performance makes us suddenly feel guilty for laughing at his flawed, yet beautifully benevolent character.

10. Fat man’s tight-y white-y underwear: Always funny stuff, but especially when mistaken for a face towel.

11. Shower curtain rings: The unsung stars of the show.

12. The 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town and Country: The mere sight of that green convertible, particularly in various states of disrepair, is worth about a dozen laughs alone.

13. Martin singing “Three Coins in the Fountain”: Yuppie Neal can’t even remember the words to this candy-coated song from the 1950s and his fellow bus passengers rightfully look at him like’s a lunatic for trying.

14. Candy singing theme song from “The Flintstones”: Del saves the day with a rousing rendition of that powerful paean to everybody’s favorite “modern Stone Age family.”

15. Neal being pulled out of the road by his testicles: A great sight gag followed with excellent use of helium voice.

16. “One”: The unforgettable answer to the temperature.

17. Owen clearing his throat: Perhaps the most annoying sound a human has ever made on screen. But not as gross as the tobacco spitting into the hand before shaking Neal’s.

18. Kevin Bacon as Taxi Racer: Terrific cameo that just made the Six Degrees game that much easier.

19. “Back in Baby’s Arms”: Angel-voiced Emmylou Harris’ rendition of this country gem pops up as ironic perfection during the “pillows” scene.

20. Doritos and gin: Although the Frito-Lay favorite had been around for 20 years when this film was made, Neal’s pairing of Doritos with a mini bottle of gin was probably the on-screen debut of the winning combination.

21. “Mess Around”: Ray Charles hit from 1953 proves so powerful it impairs Del’s driving ability.

22. “The Canadian Mounted”: What else would you expect Del to be reading? Especially when played by Canadian actor Candy.

23. Del’s trunk: Whether Neal is tripping over it on a city sidewalk or helping haul the extra-large piece of luggage across a field, the trunk remains a laugh just waiting to happen throughout the film.

24. Michael McKean as State Trooper: Lenny from “Laverne & Shirley” approaches the burnt-up green beast of an automobile and asks: “What the hell are you driving here?”

25. Ben Stein as Airport Representative: The perfect monotone voice to confirm you’re worst nightmare of being stuck in Wichita.

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