Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987, John Hughes)
The biggest misconception about John Candy is that he was a precursor to Chris Farley’s “fatty falls down” shtick. That sells Candy, a gifted character actor, incredibly short. Candy was a big guy, but he was also a funny one, and his boisterous personality was one of the most enjoyable and charming to grace the screen in the 1980s. He was never better than in Hughes’ 1987 comedy — for what it’s worth, my favorite film by the director — where he’s the aggressively friendly Del Griffith, a “shower curtain ring salesman” who gloms on to the uptight ad exec Neil Page (Steve Martin) on a disaster-laden trip from New York to Chicago before Thanksgiving. The film’s a perennial holiday classic in our home, and is full of some very funny bits, from “those aren’t pillows” to Martin’s f-bomb tirade at a car rental counter. But it’s the budding friendship between Neil and Del that propels this movie, the empathy Martin’s character develops, and the notes of sadness Candy brings to his role that make it one of the great ’80s movies.