December 14, 1987 12:00 PM

Imagine Jim Henson minus Muppets, Stallone less fists, Barbra Streisand sans ego. Unthinkable? No more so than producer-director-writer John Hughes without teenagers. In half a dozen films, from Sixteen Candles to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Hughes has earned his title as the titan of teen. Now, Hughes claims he is pushing into grown-up territory. True, his new stars, Steve Martin and John Candy, are twice the age of his usual casting choices. But juvenile behavior is still the order of the day. Martin, a businessman trying to get home from Manhattan to a snowbound Chicago for Thanksgiving, is seated next to Candy, a traveling salesman, on a plane that eventually lands in Wichita, Kans. The two of them indulge in more ca-ca, f-word and smelly sock gags than a herd of sophomores. Martin has the fastidious, know-it-all role usually played by Molly Ringwald or Matthew Broderick. Candy is the obnoxious geek—see Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles. The film’s yuks, such as they are, come in watching the snob insult the slob as the two are thrown together on every possible moving conveyance. Hughes, as usual, sides with the slob. Audiences will too, since the remarkable Candy transcends his one-note part by letting us see the pain of a man who can’t slow down. Martin has tougher sledding, though he makes something hilarious of a tirade against a rental car agent. Still, the adolescent nastiness of the humor soon reaches a cringe level even these two comic wizards can’t cope with. Hughes doesn’t yet possess the skill to seek out anything more substantial than the easy laugh. Stepping into the realm of adult filmmaking doesn’t count for much without an accompanying advance toward maturity. (R)

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