Planes, Trains and Automobiles appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Due to some poor choices, this became an iffy image.
Sharpness usually worked fine, though the flick came with an awful lot of processing along the way. Some edge haloes materialized, as the movie came with an overcooked look.
Still, the film usually boasted fairly good accuracy despite these choices. Unfortunately, other artificial techniques felt more damaging.
The flick suffered from a fair amount of noise reduction, and this gave it an odd smoothed out look. When grain did appear, it tended to seem “frozen” and unnatural.
At least no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred. Source flaws remained minor, though, as I noticed a few specks but nothing big.
Colors appeared peppy and accurate throughout the movie. I thought the hues were clear and bright and they displayed no concerns related to bleeding, noise or other issues.
Black levels seemed deep, and shadow detail was fine. Without the noise reduction and other artificial choices, this would’ve been a top-notch image, but as it stood, I thought it was worth a “C”.
I felt surprised by the high quality of the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield was nicely involving and engaging, as the forward spectrum dominated and showed some very solid stereo imaging.
The music spread cleanly across the front speakers, and I also heard quite a lot of discrete usage of effects. Some really fun audio resulted from this, such as when the destroyed car toward the end of the film filled the forward spectrum with its rattling.
The surrounds contributed some solid sound as well. For the most part I found the rears to appear monaural, but some split surround usage occurred; mostly these instances involved various vehicles and they were fairly minor, but they added to the soundtrack’s impression.
Mostly it was the film’s music that was nicely reinforced in the rear. Clearly the soundfield doesn’t compete with something from an action spectacular, but I thought it seemed quite strong nonetheless.
I also felt pleased with the quality of the audio. Dialogue occasionally betrayed some mild edginess and could also seem slightly flat at times, but for the most part speech appeared distinct and natural, with no issues related to intelligibility. Effects were clean and realistic and showed no signs of distortion.
The music - which mainly consisted of dated Eighties technopop but presented some more traditional variations as well - seemed clear and bright and displayed modest low end. As a whole, the track lacked much deep bass, but I found the dynamics to seem fairly satisfying. In the end, I thought the soundtrack of Planes offered a nice surprise.
How did this 2021 Blu-ray compare to the 30th Anniversary BD from 2017? Both were identical – literally. The 2021 disc simply reissues the 2017 version – which itself just reissued the original BD from 2012.
Obviously, that means all share the same extras, though the 2021 disc boasts one difference: it arrives in a spiffy steelbook case. And Malibu Stacy comes with a new hat.
Going to the disc-based materials, Getting There Is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles runs 16 minutes, 38 seconds as it provides comments from executive producer Neil Machlis, casting directors Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson, and actors Michael McKean and Edie McClurg. Writer/director John Hughes and actors Steve Martin and John Candy also appear via a 1987 press conference, and we hear from actor Kevin Bacon from the movie’s set.
“Fun” looks at the project’s origins and script, cast and performances, and a few other production thoughts. We learn a smattering of decent notes here, but don’t expect a great overview of the production.
The 1987 press conference offers most of the info, so we don’t find many retrospective thoughts. Though we learn some interesting tidbits, the show doesn’t excel.
Two more featurettes ensue. John Hughes For Adults lasts four minutes, two seconds and offers thoughts from McKean, Martin (from 1987), Hughes (from 1987), Machlis, Hirshenson, Jenkins, and Bacon (from 1987). Hughes addresses his then-new “adult emphasis” while the others reflect on the director’s talents and methods. This is essentially just a minor tribute to the late director, so it doesn’t include much in the way of concrete info.
A Tribute to John Candy goes for three minutes, one second, and includes remarks from Martin (1987), McKean, McClurg, Hirshenson, and Jenkins. They tell us how wonderfully Candy was. And I believe them, but that doesn’t make this an interesting piece.
Under John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast, we find a two-part documentary that breaks into “The Voice of a Generation” (27:39) and “Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes” (25:52).
These include notes from Hughes, (archival), Martin (1987), Candy (1987), director Howard Deutch, producers Matty Simmons and Lauren Shuler Donner, costume designer Marilyn Vance, and actors Matthew Broderick, Jon Cryer, Lea Thompson, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara (1985), Eric Stoltz (1986), Mary Stuart Masterson (1986), Jennifer Grey (1986), Kevin Bacon (1987), and Andrew McCarthy (1985). These cover Hughes’ life and career, with an emphasis on various aspects of his films.
Created posthumously, one should expect a fair amount of praise and happy talk here. Nonetheless, we still learn quite a lot about Hughes and get good insights into his work and themes. The shows move well and go over a lot of solid info, so they’re well worth watching.
Called “Airplane Food”, a Deleted Scene fills three minutes, 24 seconds. Here Del ruins Neil’s already unappealing meal. It’s moderately amusing.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Planes, and it includes some the same extras as the Blu-ray minus “Fun”.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles succeeds largely due to the chemistry of its two stars. For all his faults, director John Hughes usually had the sense to get out of the way and not interfere with their interactions. The Blu-ray delivers surprisingly strong audio and a decent set of supplements along with flawed visuals. The film desperately needs a remaster.
To rate this film, visit the DVD Edition review of PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES