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Downtown Drive-In Presents: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

John Hughes’ 1987 hit combines a buddy movie with a road movie and an odd-couple sitcom to create one of cinema’s all-time classic comedies.
By Tom Glasson
October 24, 2012
By Tom Glasson
October 24, 2012

John Hughes’ 1987 hit combines a ‘buddy movie’ with a ‘road movie’ and an ‘odd-couple sitcom’ to create one of cinema’s all-time classic comedies. It’s a tale of man versus nature, man versus technology and even man versus fellow man as uptight ad executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) and schlumpy shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy) are forced together during a disaster-laden journey from New York to Chicago for Thanksgiving.

This is Murphy’s Law at its most unforgiving, transforming a two-hour flight into a three-day back roads odyssey thanks to some bad weather, bad decisions and simple old bad luck. The casting was spot on in this film, which was made when both actors were at their professional peaks. The steady accumulation of frustrating setbacks was a perfect device for Martin, who easily remains the most enjoyable actor to watch suffer an explosive on-screen meltdown. His performance is more subtle and nuanced than usual, however it does also feature a scene in which he famously drops the f-bomb 18 times in less than a minute, taking the otherwise PG-13 film well into the M-bracket.

John Candy is equally fantastic; creating a deeply empathic character despite traits that would have rendered him wholly annoying in the hands of almost any other actor. Together with Hughes (who also wrote the screenplay), they took a simple road movie and turned it into something far more enriching, both comically and emotionally.

The team behind the much-anticipated event Downtown Drive-In has announced Carriageworks in Sydney’s Eveleigh, just three kilometres from the Sydney CBD, as the location for its three-night season, which will run from November 29 to December 1, 2012.

A seldom-used section of the 120-year-old heritage listed building will form the perfect backdrop for the Back Roads USA season of films. The films to be screened include On The RoadPlanes, Trains and Automobiles and Vanishing Point. Downtown Drive-In will also feature a custom menu with individual items designed by The Dip, Sydney’s favourite American-style diner, playfully paying tribute to the films and shared Americana settings and atmosphere. Major sponsor Audi will supply a range of luxury cars for the ultimate drive-in experience. The cars will also feature razor-sharp sound from audio partner Bang & Olufsen.

Entry into Downtown Drive-In will cost $50 for vehicles of up to four people. Walk-in deck chair seating is also available near the screen, at $25 per person. For more information on the film schedule, drive-in experience and participating partners, visit

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