Judge Patrick Naugle takes the bus.
From above the world of Cars!
Dusty (Dane Cook, Good Luck Chuck) is a crop dusting airplane that dreams of bigger and better things. Although he's not built for speed, Dusty decides to enter the Wings Across the Word national race. The race spans countries including India, Mexcio, Iceland, Germany, and the US. However, to qualify Dusty will need to conquer his fear of heights! With the support of an old timer named Skipper (Stacy Keach, Body Bags), a ground truck named Dottie (Teri Hatcher, Desperate Housewives), and a best bud named Chug (Brad Garrett, Everybody Loves Raymond); Dusty is going to need all the help he can get to become one of the world's most impressive racers!
Love it or hate it, Disney's desire seems to be making sequels and spin-offs to just about every property they've ever owned. From recent hits like Toy Story to decades old classics like Bambi, Disney is looting almost all of its well-loved films and churning out (mostly) sub-par follow ups that never come close to capturing the charm and magic of the originals.
That is where Disney's Planes comes in. In 2006 Pixar released the film Cars, which was an enormous financial hit, if not a critical one. Cars is seen by many as the end of Pixar's amazing run making fresh, funny, emotionally resonant family films. The movie seemed to be geared towards merchandising and selling toys to tykes. Cars was such a money making behemoth that Pixar and Disney released a theatrical sequel, 2011's cleverly titled Cars 2. Even more so than the first film, Cars 2 left a bad taste in Pixar-lovers mouths and was seen as a cash-grab for the two companies. Three years later Disney (without the Pixar name attached) created Planes, set in the same world as the characters from Cars. Although not as big of a hit as the previous films, Planes still cleaned up at the box office and probably lined some executives pockets with money while the audience just got an hour and a half worth of dead weight.
I've never hidden my disinterest in Cars, a movie that feels hollow and mediocre (even more so by Pixar's standards). I was so displeased with 2006's Cars that I never made it a priority to see Cars 2. I heard through the grapevine that it was terribly disappointing, so I'm pretty sure I didn't miss much. The good news is that I have the feeling missing Cars 2 wasn't a detriment to seeing Planes, a spin-off/sequel. The bad news is that Planes is just as bad as Cars, if not worse.
I'm realizing that part of the problem with both Planes—as well as the rest of the Cars movies—is that the characters don't lend themselves to being very expressive. Oh sure, they can contort their faces (err, windshields?) into a hundred different emotions. Yet without limbs or legs, they just aren't very relatable. They fly, they land, they…fly again. Once in a while they crash into water. It's all pretty repetitive. On top of that, just who made the planes? The film takes place in Mexico and Nebraska, states named by and for people. Human people. So just where are the people? Do movies like Cars and Planes take place in some terrible future where the auto-apocalypse has transpired, wiping humanity off the face of the planet?
The voice over cast is adequate at best. Cars at least had the pedigree of such actors as Owen Wilson and the legendary Paul Newman. Planes is a solid step down with stand-up comedian Dane Cook stepping in as the lead hero Dusty Crophopper. I've never been a fan of Cook's self-indulgent comedy routines and in Planes he comes off as painfully bland. Picking up the Newman slack is Stacy Keach in the role of the old sage, Skipper, who trains Dusty in the way of racing. Keach is a fine actor but, much like Cook, his character is fairly standard and unoriginal. Other actors include Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a love interest vehicle, A Fish Called Wanda's John Cleese as a snobby British aircraft, and Finding Nemo's Brad Garrett as Chug (sort of a stand in for Larry the Cable Guy's Tow Mater). Fans will be happy to know that John Ratzenberger shows up as an airport gas attendant; even without Pixar's name on the product, it seems that Razenberger is still a fixture on the animation scene.
The plot is just a mishmash of other animated plots stitched together like some odd Frankenstein story. There's a "big race," a wise old sage, a secret that will eventually come into the light, a moral that will teach children something about themselves, and supporting characters straight out of the 'Supporting Character 101' handbook. There wasn't a single moment in Planes that surprised me. Even the animation was fairly boring by 2013 standards. In fact, Planes feels like it should have been sent straight to video (and probably would have, had it not been for the merchandising possibilities).
Planes is presented in a sparkling looking 1.78:1 widescreen transfer in 1080p high definition. Disney has done a wonderful job on this transfer; although the movie's visuals appear substandard for a Disney movie, there's no denying that this transfer looks bright, clean, and free of any and all imperfections. This is a great looking picture that will make animation fans ecstatic! The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround in English. This is sonically a very aggressive and fun audio mix that features plenty in the way of surround sounds and directional effects (there are a lot of zooming and swooshing back and fourth of various aircraft). Both the video and audio presentations get very high marks for me. Also included is a French DTS-HD 7.1 mix, a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Extra features include an exclusive musical scene ("Franz's Song"), a few brief featurettes and info on the characters ("Klay's Flight Plan," "Meet the Racers," "Top 10 Flyers"), some deleted scenes, a digital copy of the film, and a standard DVD copy of Planes.
Planes is no Cars, but the bar wasn't raised very high by any of these talking machine movies to begin with. I'm sure that kids will eat up a movie like Planes, but why would you give them such a paltry meal when there are so many other tasty animated movies out there to feast upon?
Just isn't worth the trip.
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