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Planes, Trains and Automobiles–Revisited

This week I watched an old favourite movie—Planes, Trains and Automobiles. This movie has special meaning for me in that major parts of it were filmed in my hometown of Woodstock, IL and surrounding areas, and so part of the fun is being able to pick out various parts of my childhood stomping grounds in among the scenes.

But the fact that this cult classic movie from 1987 was filmed in my hometown is not the purpose of this week’s blog.

What would happen if they tried to remake this movie today? Well, frankly, it probably wouldn’t be very good. For one thing, the world has lost the great Toronto comedian John Candy, and there simply isn’t anyone who could replace him as Del Griffith. For another, the whole plot is predicated on an inability to get from point A to point B, and the story is made funny by the inability of Del and Neal to connect with the right people who may be able to help them get home. The manner in which these two fumble simply is by today’s standards unbelievable, and hilarious.

What is conspicuously absent in this 23 year old movie are cell phones, blackberries, laptops, GPS systems and securitized credit cards. That’s because these things really didn’t exist back then. There also seems to be a significant problem with how phones worked in the time period when the movie was made. Funny enough, I don’t think that that part of the movie is inaccurate. Back then, you really needed to be in an urgent situation to make a collect call, and it wasn’t unusual in motels to see the rotary dial locked-out. After all, there was a time when basically people had discussions about how much a long-distance phone call might cost before making such a call. But then again, in the movie it is a bit strange that Neal didn’t ask his wife to send money to him via Western Union; or to call the motel to have the room paid for by her credit card, but then the story wouldn’t be that funny if she had done so.

As an HR Professional, some questions for me also arise. Neil is a Sales Representative on business, and he doesn’t contact the office for 3 days? What company today would find this acceptable? How can anyone make enough to live on selling shower curtain rings out of a trunk? Does Del have a dependent or independent contract with the shower curtain ring manufacturer? Would the Taxi Cab Hailer be terminated for assault under Bill 168?

I suppose the remake would have to account for such things. Luckily for the person who may make this movie, planes, trains and automobiles are all still vulnerable to weather conditions, and motels and rental car agencies still employ people who provide poor customer service. Maybe in the remake, Neal will Twitter about his bad experiences and get free trips from the airlines, railways and car rental companies.

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