Steve Martin plays Neal Page, a put-upon businessman determined to make it home for Thanksgiving, but hampered at every turn by a combination of vile weather, broken-down trains, cancelled planes, disappearing hire cars and most of all, by Candy’s cheerful dork, Del Griffith, a kind of saloon bar prophet whose prophecies invariably turn out to be accurate.
Martin and Candy handle the physical slapstick with ease, including a manic chase the wrong way up a freeway and the demolition of a motel frontage.
Even better, though, are the verbal exchanges between Martin and Candy, a double act that owes something to Laurel and Hardy. Martin plays a straighter role than usual but is as good as we’ve come to expect.
But Candy is the film’s joy, mining real pathos from his role, suggesting the deeply lonely life of the travelling salesman while presenting an unremittingly cheerful face to the world.
My favourite scene is set on a bus to St Louis when everyone’s pal Del (Candy) suggests Neal (Martin) choose the next song for a singalong. After Neal’s push for Three Coins In The Fountain, Del gets things rolling with the Flintstones theme.
“Please. Have mercy. I’ve been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday.”