What It Is
“Is he really as good as they say he is?” In his daydream, the one that opens Planes, the plane named Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) is even better than what “they say.” Which is to say, he’s faster and more nimble than in his non-dreamy world. In this world, he’s a crop duster, a plane whose every day consists of flying over the same fields, back and forth, spraying chemicals on crops. In his made-up world, though, he’s a racing plane, traveling the globe and beloved by his fans.
Determined to make the dream a reality (and essentially, to follow the path of Turbo in Turbo), Dusty seeks training help from an old World War II Navy Corsair named Skipper (Stacy Keach, playing Paul Newman’s role from Cars). Though Skipper is grounded and also Skeptical, he agrees to help, along with a mechanic/forklift named Dottie (Teri Hatcher) and fuel truck Chug (Brad Garrett, playing Larry the Cable Guy’s part in Cars), who refers to a book called Air Racing for Dummies. The team somehow gets Dusty ready enough to win a chance to compete in a globe-spanning race (after the plane ahead of him is busted for PEDs, or more precisely, for using a fuel enhancer).
During the race, Dusty is at once successful and earns kudos from his rivals for being a good guy, saving the British plane Bulldog (John Cleese) when he’s blinded by oil on his windshield, helps the dashing but also clueless El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui) to win the heart of the sexy French Canadian plane Rochelle (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and also finds a love interest of his own, the Indian jet Ishani (Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra). In addition, he comes to the aid of a fighter plane named Bravo (voiced by Val Kilmer, so memorable as Iceman in Top Gun). These adventures don’t so much form a coherent or forward-moving plot as they ensure that Planes makes a 90-minute running time.
By the time Dusty approaches the finish line, he and his most constant, cruelest, and most unscrupulous rival, Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith) are neck and neck. Their struggle to be recognized as “the best” descends into some yucky slapstick (involving the villain’s comeuppance by way of poop, when he crashes into port-a-potties). But Dusty’s more meaningful victory comes in the celebration of his completion of the race by his new friends.
Why It’s Fun
The aerial ballet scenes are fun to watch, as the animation takes a plane’s eye view, swooping and gliding and soaring, and also making decent use of the 3D.
The scene where Dusty and Ishani fly through a flock of paper cranes is lovely.
The racing scenes — especially their starts and finishes, in stadiums where the bleachers are occupied by cars and planes who bounce up and down, just like the fans did in Cars — are less inventive.
Who’s Going To Love It
Fans of Cars will enjoy this film, as it extends the world they know and love, while keeping the familiar humor.
This is definitely targeted at preschool children, though, with its simplistic story and straightforward narrative.
Adults may not find it quite as entertaining as it’s not as emotionally sophisticated as other Disney and Pixar films. But remember, this is for kids. Younger kids especially will want to own this when it comes out for home video.
What To Be Aware Of
The humor is definitely targeted to kids with several jokes relating to farting and peeing and one scene where the meanest plane collides with a row of port-a-potties. While making no pretensions to high art, this is classic low comedy that appeals to kids of the target age. The movie also makes a few plays on naughty language, which kids will think is funny because the planes almost say something they know they shouldn’t. That’s hilarious...if you’re five, and should at any rate be familiar to most parents.
Adult fans of the movies of the 1930s and 1940s (and classic Warner Bros. and Disney cartoons) will recognize some stock characters—such as El Chupacabra as a Latin lover and Rochelle as an overly amorous French girl and the war hero with a dark secret. The movie has fun with these classic tropes, which also come into play as the planes fly around the world, and while they will go over the heads of some kids, it’s all intended in good fun.
5 out of 10
Director: Klay Hall
Cast: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brad Garrett, Priyanka Chopra
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
US General Release: August 9, 2013
UK General Release: August 16, 2013