If it looked like this summer’s family films were destined to crash and burn, surprisingly
, it’s a Disney film that winds up coming in dead last. Planes was originally planned as a direct-to-video spinoff of the Pixar cash-cow Cars but was given the theatrical treatment instead. I know John Lasseter has a soft spot for his own Cars series, but even though he’s releasing this under the DisneyToon Studios banner, doesn’t mean he can let quality control sink so low. It seems as though he’s lost his grasp on Pixar having taken the animation department under his wing as well, and after The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Wreck-It Ralph, it seemed as though the tables were turning for the animation juggernaut. Even the teaser for the upcoming Frozen is funnier than anything here. Alas, Planes is a complete nose dive into mediocrity and never rises above its original intent.
Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) is a bored cropdusting plane in Propwash Junction, with big dreams of being a world renowned racer. When he’s not daydreaming above the fields, he’s watching top 10 crash videos in the garage with his best friend Chug (voiced by Brad Garrett), a gas tanker. Against his friend Dottie’s (voiced by Teri Hatcher) advice, Dusty enters the Wings Around the World tournament. After coming in sixth place — needing to finish fifth to qualify — Dusty is allowed to enter after the fifth place plane is disqualified for using illegal fuel intake. Now, Dusty must face his fear of heights (har, har) and enlist the help of Navy fighter jet Skipper (voiced by Stacy Keach) and prove himself to the other racers — French-Canadian Rochelle (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Indian Ishani (voiced by Priyanka Chopra), British Bulldog (John Cleese), Mexican Chupacabra (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui), and fellow American Ripslinger (voiced by Roger Craig Smith) — and win the big race to make a name for the little people… err, planes.
For something clearly aimed at the youngest crowd possible, I was pretty surprised that the film carries a PG rating. That was until a flashback sequence involving Skipper’s days as a Jolly Wrencher when he leads his fellow jets into battle and they start getting blown up. I can’t help but imagine what’s going through a youngsters mind as they see all these characters essentially getting killed off in a great big scary action scene. It’s like someone wanted to remake Saving Private Ryan for toddlers. While it may look spectacular to the adults — the animation is admittedly top-notch — it’s just too much for the wee ones to take in my opinion. At least in this day and age; maybe had the film been able to see release back in the ’80s it would blow over easier, but kids these days are just too weak for that kind of bombastic action.
The whole film seems to drift on autopilot from beginning to end and offers absolutely no reason to see it in theaters. And the pace is so sluggish that my colleague’s six-year-old daughter became so bored she was playing with her 3D glasses for most of the final 30 minutes. Padding rears its head in the most clichéd fashion too with at least two unnecessary montages. At one point, Skipper tells Dusty, “It’s not how fast you fly, it’s how you fly fast,” but apparently director Klay Hall and writer Jeffrey M. Howard weren’t listening to their own advice. When Chupacabra makes his big entrance to the sound of crickets, that’s pretty much how the film plays out for its entire 92 minutes. Sorry Disney, after Planes, it looks like it’s time to keep your beloved Cars parked at the theme park.
Photos courtesy Walt Disney Pictures