Now there is a very real chance you have never seen this movie. Mainly because it hits the sweet spot of quality to be just outside of normal cable TV airing yet not so good that some random streaming service couldn’t snap up the rights fast. Ya know something no one but that one aunt we all have uses. Like Sling-o or Vudu or what have you. So basically I am just used to being told no when I ask if somebody has seen this film. To which my response is always.
The movie focuses around Steve Martin trying to get home in time for Thanksgiving from a business trip. Simple enough, just refund the flight and take that money to go get a train ticket or rental car to return home amongst the bad weather. Atleast it would be, but John Candy seemingly always kept getting in his way.
Already annoyed from being stuck next to him on the flight each subsequent meeting only piling up his frustrating as his day was getting progressively worse. In an attempt to just blow off some stress after seeing this goofy shower ring salesman seemingly holding him back in every possible way Steve decides to let him have it. Not realizing good natured Del Griffith (John Candy’s character) would attempt to make it up to him, by helping Neal (Steve Martin’s character) get home to his family. Only downside is that Del straight up sucks. He is loud, boring, smokes, and is physically awkward to name just a few traits. He is also fundamentally unhappy. His wife died years ago and he actually doesn’t have anything better to do for the holidays. He was just doing his best and honestly from the way he talks it’s as if she is still with him. The movie does lots of little subtle drops early to hint at this fact.
Now Neal, Neal is an asshole, but he does try his best to put up with it. Like sure Neal is not a very likeable guy with his smug nature and agressive jabs. This behavior often tends to come back at him almost right way.
Neal has the luxury of being unhappy. His life is largely pretty good. Nice home, nice job, and a handsome wife is far from unpleasant on a day to day level. So when stuff goes south, he can’t handle it. Del on the other hand used to be happy. He has lost everything he cares about, but more importantly he lost everyone that cares about him. So he has to be strong. He has to force some fun into his life and to those around him. Because if he stops for just a minute it starts to set in. A few times he has to wrestle with that fact in this film. Until finally after a specificly rude attack from Neal he decides to stand up for himself. With a speech that almost seems like it’s the first time he has accepted the fact that he can like himself without his wife. Yet they still drop it at a time before we even know he is all alone.
The movie is so much more than just a straight man road trip comedy. It let’s us see that not all assholes have it tough, and not all happy losers just slide through life. That maybe, even if it’s just from Thanksgiving to Christmas, we should be nicer to each other. That we never know how some people are doing, even if those people never shut up. That we need to pay attention to the people around us and treat them kindly even if they don’t deserve it, even if they don’t seem to need it, and especially when we don’t want to. So I’ll spare you a run down of why the movie is good and just hope you will watch/rewatch this classic with Del’s character in mind. Then be thankful for anyone you have in your life. Even if they skip out on meeting you for lunch two weeks in a row.