Disney presents Planes, but not quiet the Disney you expect. A spin-off of the Cars franchise, Planes was a concept Cars creator John Lasseter proposed, and Disney accepted, but as a straight to DVD film by their side company DisneyToon Studios, which has mostly created straight to DVD projects except for smaller films like Teacher’s Pet, Return to Neverland, The Tigger Movie, and several other average animated films. Then came casting the movie, when the talented and underrated Jon Cryer left the project for the offensive and overrated Dane Cook, just months before the project was being released in theaters, which led to many of the original trailers being completely without any voice acting!
Speaking of the trailers, all of them are rather mediocre, with most of them just showing off the flight animation, and another featuring some truly uninspired humor accompanied by many racial stereotypes that really turned me off to this project. Factor in how bad these family films have been as of late (Smurfs 2), the worst was expected walking into the theater. Surprisingly though, Planes was an enjoyable time in the theater.
Dusty Crophopper is a cropdusting plane with a dream unlike any other, to become a racing champion, but there is a catch. Dusty is a far less-advanced plane and has a serious fear of heights, but with heart and willpower, Dusty chases his goal of becoming a racer!
The visuals in Planes are quiet impressive. While it does not have the exact detail that the most highly touted Disney films do, it had far less money put into it. It has a very Cars-like style to it with its animation, and looks very similar to the original Cars film, which is impressive considering the budgetary constraints here.
The racing scenes look great. Long time animation director Klay Hall is able to capture the true soaring feeling of flying, while accompanying the scenes with a very Top Guns-like soundtrack to increase the true adrenaline in the soaring moments. The flying bits here are clearly shot, exciting, and a lot of fun to watch, which is great because there are a frequent amount of them, all of them being equally as good.
Planes has a very authentic and old fashioned-type energy to the film which was great to see for once. With most animated films making lazy pop culture references and shoving in popular talents as voice actors, Planes does not feel the need to force these elements in to attract audiences. Instead, it’s the simple and innocent family film that is trying to be, which was a breath of fresh air.
The voice acting here is good, featuring many unappreciated talents. While it seemed that Dane Cook would be a bad choice, he does a competent job here as Dusty, and is able to voice the willpower and desire the character has. Stealing the show here is Brad Garrett, whose distinct voice and comedic chops is able to create a funny bit nearly every time he was on screen. Other voice actors like John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Stacy Keach stay in their wheelhouses here, but they do that role very well yet again.
Planes surprisingly has a good amount of laughs for adults. Scribe Jeffrey Howard has more than a few smart bits in here that got a laugh out of me, along with some visual aesthetics in the movie. It’s not anywhere close to being one of the funniest animated movies of recent memory, but there were enough laughs to be satisfied.
The story here is by the numbers for sure. It’s basically the same underdog story, with the typical rise and fall for the protagonist. The problem is, they didn’t give the events enough time to develop. The film is about 92 minutes long, and flies by in a minute, but the film needed more time for Dusty’s rise to power, which hurt the impact of the story.
Another problem with the script is the lack of laughs for children. Seeing this with a packed crowd full of children, there was the expectation that there would be a lot of laughs in the theater. Surprisingly, there were very little laughs for the target audience, which leads me to think that Howard spent too much time focusing on getting adults to laugh instead of the kids, which is a bit of a letdown. For me, a great family film should have children and adults laughing at the same jokes, not designing jokes for one or the other.
The film featured a bit too many stereotypical characters for my liking, and went a bit too far with them. Most of the other racers are just defined by their race and accent, which is not giving a good message at all to children. While these stereotypes were not played up to the levels of being offensive, it was aggravating to see such lazily drawn characters, because they could have been comedic dynamite.
A minor issue; the marketing for Planes stressed the fact that it took place in the world of Cars, and it would have been great if they could have integrated the Cars brand much better. Sure, they are able to get their due, but it just left questions for the audience about how these two are involved. Personally, the idea of having the cars and planes together sounds more interesting for kids to see for sure, but it’s easy to understand the limitations they had.
Planes may have some issues in story structure and characters, but soars at creating a fun, old-fashioned family experience for all ages to enjoy. With most of the family films out now being crap (Smurfs 2), families should check this out for sure!
Do a Shot: for each racial stereotype.
Take a Drink: during each generic plot point.
Take a Drink: during the painful musical number