PLANES (2013) – The Review
For the last few Summers we’ve come to expect a brand new animated feature from the fine folks at Pixar, and a couple of months ago filmgoers took a tour of the campus of MONSTERS UNIVERSITY. But what’s this? A second flick out of Emoryville? Well yes and no. PLANES was originally produced (mostly animated in India, not California) for the home video market, bypassing theatres. This sort of thing has happened before. TOY STORY 2 was intended to go right to DVD (more like VHS then), but the studio thought it turned out so well that it should be released theatrically (and they were absolutely correct!). PLANES is also a sequel, in a roundabout way. We’re not getting a further adventure with Lightning and Mater, but this is set in the same movie universe, or as the ads say, “from the world of CARS”. No humans here, just modes of transport acting like us. So is this tale worthy of the bump-up to theatres, as was that 1999 search for Buzz Lightyear? Umm, well…
As PLANES begins we’re zipping and soaring through the sky as Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) races a couple of jets. But it’s merely a lovely daydream. Dusty’s just (of course), a lowly crop-dusting plane. By gosh, he is gonna’ be a racer with help and encouragement from his best pals Chug (Brad Garrett), a fuel tanker, and Dottie (Teri Hatcher), a service/repair forklift. And that old wartime fighter plane, Skipper (Stacy Keach), offers a tip to fly past the clouds and ride the wind currents. Dusty tries this until he almost blacks out. Turns out that he’s afraid of the big heights and can only fly close to the ground. Nevertheless he goes to the world race time trials and qualifies for a spot in the big event. Soon he’s flying across the globe competing against planes from other countries including reigning champ, the sneaky Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith). Can Dusty overcome his fears and win the big race?
As if there’s a remote possibility of an unhappy ending! That’s one of the many problems with this new flick: predictability. There’s no big surprises as Dusty and the other racers are plopped into various globe settings (which are rendered quite beautifully). Our hero is essentially looked down upon, but, by golly, his goodness and determination will win everyone over (except the reigning champ who seems to have no nationality). The other planes have personalities based on regional stereotypes. The Brit plane Bulldog (voiced by comic genius John Cleese) is a stodgy, stiff-upper lip type. French Canadian (I’ll give them points for the Canadian part) plane Rochelle gets her flirty cooing voice from Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The hot-blooded El Chupacapra (complete with wrestler mask) voiced by Reno 911’s Carlos Alazraqui seems to be a not-so-distant cousin of Puss in Boots from Dreamworks’s “Shrek” series (I thought it was Bandaras at first!). And this whole big race plot was used in the first CARS film. Do we really need to explore that universe any further after CARS 2 (Pixar’s first misfire)? I mean other than a fast cash grab? Well, those flicks do have a very rabid, very young fan base. The wee ones will, no doubt, enjoy this, but there’s none of the all-ages sophistication of UP or THE INCREDIBLES (and the adults may be checking their watches although it clocks in under 90 minutes). They have been worse animated entertainments this year (remember ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH? didn’t think so), but we expect more from our Pixar pals. At the end of this film’s credits we’re told that Dusty will return in PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE. Perhaps he would enjoy a smoother landing on the new release DVD shelf than at the multiplex.
2 Out of 5 Stars