Planes, Trains and Automobiles appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though this wasn’t a great transfer, it wasn’t bad, either.
Sharpness usually appeared fairly crisp and accurate. A few shots seemed slightly soft and hazy, but these were rather infrequent; for the most part, the movie presented a well-defined image. Moiré effects and jagged edges offered no problems, but I witnessed moderate edge haloes. Source flaws remained minor, though; I noticed a few specks but nothing big.
Colors appeared natural 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. The mild softness, source defects and edge haloes made this a “B-“, but it was generally appealing.
I was surprised by the high quality of the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield was nicely involving and engaging. 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 a more recent action spectacular, but I thought it seemed quite strong nonetheless.
Also positive was 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 the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to those of the original DVD from 2000? Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to directly compare the two. Based on my old review, I’d bet that the audio remained the same, but the 2009 DVD appeared to offer a moderately improved transfer. The new disc suffered from fewer source flaws, at least. I’d be surprised to see that the 2009 version blew away its predecessors, but it did seem to show growth.
This “Those Aren’t Pillows! Edition” of Planes provides a minor mix of extras. Getting There Is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles runs 16 minutes, 43 seconds as it provides comments from a variety of parties. We hear 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, 16 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, 46 seconds, 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.
Called “Airplane Food”, a Deleted Scene fills three minutes, 31 seconds. Here Del ruins Neil’s already unappealing meal. It’s moderately amusing.
The disc opens with an ad for various CBS TV on DVD releases. This clip also repeats under Previews. No trailer for Planes shows up here.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles succeeds nicely largely due to the chemistry of its two stars. For all his faults, director John Hughes usually had the good sense to get out of the way and not interfere with their interactions. The DVD offers decent picture and good sound but the extras don’t add much to the package.
If you don’t own the original Planes DVD, this one is worth your time. However, I’m not sure it merits a double dip. Yes, it includes a few supplements and it gives us a minor picture upgrade. Neither really excels, though; the new extras are disappointing, and the transfer isn’t a remarkable improvement.