Wednesday, November 25, 1987
The Michigan Daily
By John Shea
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
teams the unlikely trio of John
Candy, Steve Martin and director
John Hughes in a film about the
perils of travelling during the holi-
day season. It is both a story about
the true meaning of Thanksgiving
and a slap at the airlines. And it's
It is two days before Thanks-
giving, and Neal Page (Martin), a
prim and proper advertising execu-
tive working out of New York, is
trying to get home to Chicago to
spend the holidays with his family.
Problem is, his plane leaves at six,
and he finds that hailing a cab in
Manhattan during rush hour is noth-
ing short of finding the Holy Grail.
Desperate, Neal bribes an attorney
for his cab, only to have it inadver-
tently stolen from him by Del Grif-
fen (Candy), a loveable but loud-
mouthed shower curtain ring sales-
man, who is also heading t o
Chicago for the holidays.
Naturally, Neal's and Del's
paths will cross; they end up sitting
next to one another on the plane.
Neal just wants to read a magazine;
Del wants to recite his life story to
anyone who will listen. And when a
snowstorm over Chicago forces the
flight to be rerouted to Missouri,
Del is eager to share his travelling
expertise. Neal wants nothing to do
with Del, but unable to find trans-
portation or a vacant motel, he goes
along with him.
What follows is a series of
mishaps and accidents that follows
Murphy's Law to the letter. Del's
good intentions and advice propels
them into one disaster after another.
Automobiles is reminiscent of sev-
eral other films, the two most com-
ing to mind are The Out of Towners
with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Den-
nis and Martin Scorsese's After
Hours; thing go wrong and then
they get worse.
There are no startling surprises
to speak of, no interesting twists or
turns that are taken; when we first
see Neal and Del sharing a bed to-
gether in the only available hotel
room in Missouri, we know they
will spending Thanksgiving to-
prise, and the other is not.
With last summer's Roxanne,
Martin has proven that he is more
than "The Jerk." He has no peers
when it comes to physical comedy;
his facial expressions alone are
enough to send one into convulsive
laughter. But there is a tender, more
serious side to him that he allows to
let surface. It is this side that allows
him to walk the tightrope of playing
an obnoxious, pompous character
and yet still be likeable. This is not
an easy chore, and Martin pulls it off
Candy is something of a sur-
prise. His career, marked by notice-
able supporting roles in monster hits
(Stripes, Splash), has not been one
of versatility; he plays the funny fat
man every time. He is funny here
too, but like in Martin's case, there
is a more dramatic side to Candy.
And when it surfaces, in particular
when he tells Martin that he knows
he is not perfect, but likes himself
for what he is, it is downright pow-
erful. This is by far the best perfor-
mance of his career, and while I
would not recommend he run off and
play Willie Lomax on stage, Auto-
mobiles proves that Candy has a
broader range of talents than one
For writer and director John
Hughes (Pretty in Pink, The Break-
fast Club), this marks the first time
he has ever worked with principals
older than he. There is nothing too
original in the script, but as always
Hughes pens realistic dialogue and
interesting situations. The comedy
in this movie is very good.
But when Hughes tries to get
too serious, he runs into problems.
He is the kind of director who illus-
trates a character's broken dreams by
having him sit on top of the mail-
box in the pouring rain; there is a
lack of subtlety. The same holds true
with the end of Automobiles, in
which the point of good will and
helping strangers out is conveyed
with a sledgehammer. Hughes has
little touch for drama and would be
better off avoiding it whenever pos-
That's just-a minor bump in the
road, however. Take some good ad-
vice: line up early and get your
ticket. Planes, Trains and Automo-
biles is one fun ride.
Steve Martin (left) and John Candy (right) play two unlikely travel
companions in John Hughes' new film, 'Planes, Trains, and
gether. of Martin and Candy. These two
Yet, what makes this film the former stand-up comedians have
treat that it is are the performances made good as actors; one is a sur-
The Hollywood clich6: It
makes the world go 'round
By Lisa Pollak
We can't live with them; we can't
live without them.
But most pseudo-knowledgeable
film critics - me included - seem
to agree with the former. Just read
our reviews. "Haven't we seen this
before?" we ask coyly. "Another
tired clich6!" we exclaim. "Oh, as if
we don't know what happens next
here," we type, wishing we knew
how to roll our eyes in prose.
Clich6s. They're something all
reviewers must come to grips with.
And the subject gives us a lot to
sink our teeth into. Are cliches just
flies in the ointment? Or can they be
pulled off by movie-makers who
play their cards right?
Let's get to the heart of this mat-
ter. In my short-but-sweet career as a
Daily film critic, I've reviewed four
films ladden with more cliches than
you can shake a stick at. Case in
point: I've only seen four films this
term. But I've seen eight stereotypi-
cal love scenes, seventeen stock
characters, four predictable story
lines, and enough corny pieces of
dialogue to feed all the starving ac-
tors in Europe. The clich6s were a
dime a dozen. And I didn't exactly
welcome them with open arms.
But let's jump from the' frying
pan and into the fire. This month I
watched Russkies, where a Russian
named Mischa drank vodka while he
preached about world peace. I
watched The Hidden, where a squid-
like alien crawled in and out of hu-
man bodies. I watched The Killing
Time, where a character said to her
husband "You don't love me any-.
more! Life just isn't worth living!"
Finally there was The Running
Man, where Arnold Schwarzenegger
growled "I'll be back." And he was.
"Clich6s, clich6s, clich6s!" I
screamed. "They leave a bad taste in
my mouth! They're the last straw!
They're a bitter pill to swallow!
We're skating on thin ice now!"
I was, you could say, fit to be
But the whole time I was also
painting myself into a corner,
burning the candle at both ends, and
cutting off my nose to spite my
Because by making a big stink
over the tired and stupidly executed
clich6s in today's movies, I - and
all film reviewers - are giving the
clich6 a bad name. Clich6s are re-
peated, familiar ideas. They are
stereotypes and colloquialisms. But
once in a blue moon clich6s in films
can be very effective. They aren't
necessarily bad news.
Mel Brooks, for example, has
made an entire career out of cliches.
He made his bed, he lies in it, and he
reaps the profits from Blazing Sad-
dles, Spaceballs, Young Franken-
stein, and others - all of which
parody common cinematic clich6s.
Perhaps the most remembered scene
from Woody Allen's Hannah and Her
Sisters was the "mayonnaise and
white bread shot" - Allen's "non-
Jewish" cliche that never gets stale.
* Sure, cliches and stereotypes
aren't going to set the world on fire.
But just look at a list of Academy
Award winning movies. The Godfa-
ther. Platoon. Patton. Rocky. Many
of their characters were cliches, or
stereotypes. Did the academy think
Oliver Stone's film was "a Vietnam
cliche?" No, but many of the
characters and scenes arguably re-
flected what Webster calls "a stereo-
typical, common, well-known" idea.
The difference? They were well done.
Shinning stars. Winning plays. You
get the idea.
But give a movie-maker an inch,
he'll take a mile. John Hughes is a
perfect example; his endless cine-
matic visions of idealized love-at-
the-prom high school life give the
words "teenager" and "clich6" a bad
With their 1978 release, 'Singles - 45's and Under,' Squeeze became mainstays of the college rock
scene. The band is enjoying new found success with their new LP, 'Babylon and On.'
Sauceze vlav succeeds
By Mark Swartz
Squeeze, a squeaky clean British
pop squadron, performs tonight at
the State Theatre in Detroit. Expert
purveyors of Beatle-esque melodies,
they combine clever wordplay and a
quirky sense of humor to create
The album with which most
Squeeze fans are familiar is Singles
- 45's and Under, a compilation
of the group's best work from 1978
to 1982. "Tempted," "Pulling
Mussels from a Shell," and "Black
Coffee in Bed" are just some of the
ditties that captured the hearts and
minds of the hip but down-to-earth
After Singles, the band split
up. got back together and made
osi Fan Tutti Fruitti, not a total
>ss, but not the chartbusting
omeback the band hoped for,
ither. The next installation in the
queeze catalog is Babylon and On.
' return to the straightforward
pproach of their early albums, it is
finely crafted, slickly produced
ackage. The single and video,
Hourglass," has received more
ttention and airplay than any
queeze hit to date.
In concert, they peddle the same
>rm of pop whimsy found on the
records. Songwriters Chris Difford
and Glen Tilbrook are the centers of
attention, along with English T.V.
personality Jools Holland, the key-
boardist. Holland has been known
to perform a raucous solo piano
shoot-em-up to the delight of the
SQUEEZE will be performing
tonight at the State Theatre in De-
troit, 2111 Woodward. Showtime
is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tickets are
$1650 and can be purchased at all
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