Dutch Dooley (Ed O'Neill) agrees to pick up his girl friend's son, Doyle (Ethan Randall) at an Atlanta boarding school and drive him home to Chicago for Thanksgiving.
His girl friend (JoBeth Williams) is divorced from her son's obnoxious blue-blooded father. Dutch, in contrast, is a self made owner of a large construction firm. He is loose, regular and clumsy.
Doyle is slightly more obnoxious than his father and Dutch has his hands full forcing the kid to return to Chicago to visit his mother. From Atlanta to Chicago, the two attempt to outdo each other with intellectual arguments and physical strength. Dutch is by far larger, but the kid is an expert at martial arts.
There are high points in the film. An enjoyable scene in which Dutch fires off fireworks in the snow, and one in which the two, after losing their car in an accident caused by Doyle, and their money, end up in a homeless shelter.
Despite the various comical sequences the film never comes together; the kid is so bad at the beginning he could not be converted over a few days on the road, and the director (John Hughes) appears to have taken a few situations and pieced them together. The problem is that the total does not equal the combination of the parts. There is an emotional ending with mom, but it is not enough to make a successful film.