Tag Archives: John Candy

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987, John Hughes)

Planes, Trains & Automobiles is probably most impressive technically. The narrative is problematic but not a bad narrative, it’s just a problematic one. Director Hughes can’t decide if he wants Planes to be a comedy with John Candy or a comedy about Candy. Candy’s able to be sympathetic while still being unbelievably annoying–his performance is the film’s finest–but Hughes doesn’t know how to use him. Planes is Steve Martin’s picture or it’s Martin and Candy’s, but it’s never just Candy’s. Though Hughes pretends otherwise.

As for the technical qualities. Donald Peterman’s photography and Paul Hirsch’s editing are sublime. Peterman and Hirsch turn Hughes’s often mediocre composition into beautiful visuals. Ira Newborn’s score, which has some ill-advised eighties remix, also creates these amazing moments more appropriate for a film in the Cinéma du look movement. They’re some of the most memorable scenes in Planes and are startling to see in an American buddy comedy.

The narrative’s also peculiar because Hughes puts the big blow-out between Martin and Candy early in the picture. The later minor ones are still funny, they just don’t resonate. The choice probably hampered Hughes’s narrative pacing, but it deepens Planes.

In the supporting cast, Edie McClurg is obviously the standout. Dylan Baker’s real funny too. As Martin’s wife (Hughes plays with juxtaposing the stories, then drops it), Laila Robins is perfect–though the filmmaking might have more to do with it than her acting.

Planes is a fine time; its singular scenes near transcendence.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Written, directed and produced by John Hughes; director of photography, Donald Peterman; edited by Paul Hirsch; music by Ira Newborn; production designer, John W. Corso; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Steve Martin (Neal Page), John Candy (Del Griffith), Laila Robins (Susan Page), Michael McKean (State Trooper), Dylan Baker (Owen), Carol Bruce (Joy), Olivia Burnette (Marti), Diana Douglas (Peg), Martin Ferrero (Second Motel Clerk), Larry Hankin (Doobie), Richard Herd (Walt), Susan Kellermann (Waitress), Matthew Lawrence (Little Neal), Edie McClurg (Car Rental Agent), George Petrie (Martin), Gary Riley (Motel Thief), Charles Tyner (Gus) and Kevin Bacon (Taxi Racer).


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The Blues Brothers (1980, John Landis)

I wonder if Cab Calloway got upset he only got half a music video in The Blues Brothers while Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin both got full ones. While these interludes are completely out of place and break up the “flow” of the film, they’re at least somewhat competent. One can see what director Landis is doing. When he’s doing one of his big demolition sequences, it’s unclear. There’s never any realism, so one’s apparently just supposed to rejoice in the illusion of property damage.

The film opens with a lovely aerial sequence moving through the Chicago morning. For the first third of Brothers, Landis and his cinematographer Stephen M. Katz do wonderful work. The rest isn’t bad so much as pointless–the movie gets so stupid there’s nothing good to shoot.

The problem’s the script. Landis and Dan Aykroyd write terrible expository conversations, which Aykroyd and John Belushi can barely deliver without laughing (it’s good someone had a nice time, I suppose). But their costars? Charles and Franklin’s cameos are painful as neither can act. Of course, Landis can’t even direct Carrie Fisher into a good performance so it’s hard to blame any of the actors.

There are a handful of good performances–Calloway’s okay, Charlies Napier and Steven Williams both do well, as do Henry Gibson and John Candy.

Kathleen Freeman is awful.

As for the band… Alan Rubin is good. Murphy Dunne is awful. The rest fail to make an impression.

Brothers is tedious, pointless and inane.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Landis; written by Dan Aykroyd and Landis; director of photography, Stephen M. Katz; edited by George Fosley Jr.; production designer, John J. Lloyd; produced by Robert K. Weiss; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring John Belushi (‘Joliet’ Jake Blues), Dan Aykroyd (Elwood Blues), James Brown (Reverend Cleophus James), Cab Calloway (Curtis), Ray Charles (Ray), Aretha Franklin (Mrs. Murphy), Steve Cropper (Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper), Donald Dunn (Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn), Murphy Dunne (Murphy ‘Murph’ Dunne), Willie Hall (Willie ‘Too Big’ Hall), Tom Malone (Tom ‘Bones’ Malone), Lou Marini (‘Blue Lou’ Marini), Matt Murphy (Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy), Alan Rubin (Alan ‘Mr. Fabulous’ Rubin), Carrie Fisher (Mystery Woman), Henry Gibson (Head Nazi), John Candy (Burton Mercer), Kathleen Freeman (Sister Mary Stigmata), Steve Lawrence (Maury Sline), Twiggy (Chic Lady), Frank Oz (Corrections Officer), Jeff Morris (Bob), Charles Napier (Tucker McElroy), Steven Williams (Trooper Mount) and Armand Cerami (Trooper Daniel).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) / BLUES BROTHERS 2000 (1998).

Splash (1984, Ron Howard)

Splash has a strange narrative structure. The front’s heavy, likely because the filmmakers make a real effort to establish Tom Hanks as a listless young (well, youngish) man. Of course, Hanks is a listless man with an apparently great job as a produce whole seller, an amazing Manhattan apartment and limitless funds. Then the end’s light, which is probably because Atlantis wasn’t in Splash‘s budget.

Strong writing from Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel and Bruce Jay Friedman–not to mention great direction from Howard and a mostly outstanding performance from Hanks–makes the first act sail through. Some of it’s so good, it takes Splash a while to recover from not pursuing those story threads.

The film’s often a slapstick comedy, especially when it follows Eugene Levy around. He’s in pursuit of Daryl Hannah, who’s the mermaid Hanks is unknowingly dating. Well, he knows he’s dating her but not the other bit.

Hannah’s got the most important role in the film. She doesn’t just have to be the ideal combination of sexy and sweet, she’s also got to be able to pull off being a genius. Apparently mermaids are all geniuses. Mer-people. It’s never explained; Howard and company offer just enough to make it passable without raising too many questions.

Levy’s okay–his role in the script is the weakest–but John Candy’s supporting turn more than makes up for him.

Howard expertly handles the film’s various tones, with excellent photography from Donald Peterman.

Lee Holdridge’s score is nice too.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Ron Howard; screenplay by Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel and Bruce Jay Friedman, based on a screen story by Friedman and a story by Brian Grazer; director of photography, Donald Peterman; edited by Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill; music by Lee Holdridge; production designer, Jack T. Collis; produced by Grazer; released by Touchstone Films.

Starring Tom Hanks (Allen Bauer), Daryl Hannah (Madison), Eugene Levy (Walter Kornbluth), John Candy (Freddie Bauer), Dody Goodman (Mrs. Stimler), Shecky Greene (Mr. Buyrite), Richard B. Shull (Dr. Ross), Bobby Di Cicco (Jerry), Howard Morris (Dr. Zidell), Tony DiBenedetto (Tim, The Doorman), Patrick Cronin (Michaelson), Charles Walker (Michaelson’s Partner), David Knell (Claude), Jeff Doucette (Junior), Royce D. Applegate (Buckwalter), Tony Longo (Augie), Nora Denney (Ms. Stein), Charles Macaulay (The President), Ronald F. Hoiseck (Dr. Johannsen), Lou Tiano (Bartender), Joe Grifasi (Manny) and Rance Howard (McCullough).


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Once Upon a Crime (1992, Eugene Levy)

To sum up Levy’s direction, although Once Upon a Crime filmed entirely on location in Europe, the whole thing feels vaguely Canadian. Or, to put it another way, it’s hard to believe anyone footed Jim Belushi’s airfare to Monte Carlo to film this one.

But Levy’s only a mediocre director, the casting is the real problem. Belushi’s awful and so is Richard Lewis. The joke of the screenplay is the men are always weaker than their women, whether it’s Belushi and Cybill Shepherd (who’s okay), Lewis and Sean Young (who’s good), John Candy and Ornella Muti (more on them in a bit), or even the butler and maid (Geoffrey Andrews and Ann Way). The only subtle part in the film is this repeated power dynamic.

Maybe Levy missed it. He was too busy letting Belushi fail at acting a moron. Now, the script isn’t genius dialogue by any means, but it’s not terrible. Lewis is doing his stand-up (he’s even in his trench coat) and it doesn’t work. But Belushi simply can’t act. In the scenes opposite Candy, when Levy’s going for something out of a screwball comedy, it’s a perfect example of Candy’s ability and Belushi’s lack of it. Candy makes it work, all of it. Belushi drags every scene.

Muti’s good as Candy’s suffering wife; their scenes together are a highpoint.

The best performance is Giancarlo Giannini as the police inspector investigating the surprisingly engaging mystery.

Once Upon a Crime is a bad film, but not entirely.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Eugene Levy; screenplay by Charles Shyer, Nancy Meyers and Steve Kluger, based on an earlier screenplay by Rodolfo Sonego, Giorgio Arlorio, Stefano Strucchi and Luciano Vincenzoni and a story by Sonego; director of photography, Giuseppe Rotunno; edited by Patrick Kennedy; music by Richard Gibbs; production designer, Pier Luigi Basile; produced by Dino De Laurentiis; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring John Candy (Augie Morosco), James Belushi (Neil Schwary), Cybill Shepherd (Marilyn Schwary), Sean Young (Phoebe), Richard Lewis (Julian Peters), Ornella Muti (Elena Morosco), Giancarlo Giannini (Inspector Bonnard), George Hamilton (Alfonso de la Pena), Roberto Sbaratto (Detective Toussaint), Joss Ackland (Hercules Popodopoulos), Ann Way (Housekeeper) and Geoffrey Andrews (Butler).


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