With so many different entertainment options out there for your children, we at PopcornBiz thought we'd take a moment each week to dissect one piece of family entertainment strictly from a parent's perspective, so that you know what parts are appropriate for your loved ones, and which are not. This week's COVER YOUR EYES subject: “Planes, Trains, And Automobiles”
There’s no real definitive Thanksgiving movie. It’s not like Christmas, when you know you’re gonna watch “A Christmas Story” and you know darn well you AREN’T gonna watch “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Too many people spend Thanksgiving watching football or heading out to see NEW movies, and thus the holiday is left without a perennial movie favorite. In fact, most Thanksgiving-themed movies are AWFUL, almost always featuring a bunch of annoying family members getting together to annoy each other. I get enough of that in real life, thank you. I don’t need “Pieces of April” to drive the point home.
The closest thing we have to a classic Thanksgiving film is the late John Hughes’ “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” his 1987 dramedy that, like the director himself, seems to grow in stature with each passing year. Is "PTA" your best option for family viewing after stuffing yourself rotten this Turkey Day? Let’s consider a few factors:
The “Will Parents Be Able To Tolerate It?” Factor: Yep. Despite its family-friendliness, this is very much an adult story about the friendship between two grown men. Hopefully, there are enough butt jokes along the way to distract your children from that fact. "PTA" is the kind of movie that adults look back fondly upon and try and get their kids to like, then become enraged should the kids show the slightest disinterest. Gird yourself. Your kids may not adore John Hughes they way you do.
The Dead Parent Factor: There’s a dead wife factor at the end. You know the scene I’m talking about. It blindsides every first-time viewer of the movie and it’s no less devastating 24 years later. I saw this movie when it opened in theaters during Thanksgiving 1987. I was 11 years old. We all staggered out of theater depressed and in need of ice cream. No one told me the end of the movie plays like a Bergman film. Also, you may need to explain to your kids that John Candy is no longer with us and why the world is an awful place because of that.
The Sexy Sex Sex Factor: The infamous sleeping scene with Candy and Martin has a dash of gay panic, but nothing all that outrageous by today’s standards.
The Scare Factor: If the idea of your wife dying, losing your job, and being reduced to being a pretend shower curtain ring salesman scares you, this movie is like “Paranormal Activity”. It’s especially gut-wrenching because this is 2011 and you probably don’t have a job either.
The Violence Factor: Well, the car does blow up. And there’s SMOKING! Remember when you could smoke in movies? John Candy smokes like he’s Don Draper or something.
The Emotional Factor: It’s the emotional complexity of "PTA" that should give any parent pause. All the slapsticky stuff masks many of the movie’s darker themes like loneliness, unemployment, anxiety, and depression. This is a movie you grow to appreciate more the more life kicks you in the butt.
Age Range: 10 and up.