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2013 | 92 min | PG | 1.78:1



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Theatrical release date

 09 August, 2013
 16 August, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Technical aspects

3D (native)

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Screenshots from Planes Blu-ray

Planes Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 8, 2013

Let’s not kid ourselves here, Disney’s “Planes” has arrived to facilitate the creation of a new generation of toys. It’s classic Hollywood marketing disguised as moviemaking, only here the groundwork has been laid by “Cars” and “Cars 2,” the Pixar pair that didn’t exactly win critical favor, but ran away with billions in merchandising. Billions. Of course the Mouse House was going to test the limits of this fandom, especially when the last “Cars” picture showed signs that audiences were growing a little tired of the automobile flavor. Now we have airplanes, but the story, the jokes, and the corporate manipulation remains the same. However, “Planes” does possess the fluid animation “Cars” lacked, taking to the sky with a slick presentation of aerial balletics and cartoon antics.

In the sleepy town of Propwash Junction, Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) takes to the sky as a crop duster, but he dreams of a more exciting life high in the clouds, soaring with the big planes. With the help of pals Chug (Brad Garrett), a fuel truck, and Dottie (Teri Hatcher), a forklift mechanic, Dusty enters the Wings Around the Globe Rally, barely equipped to take on his opponents, including the villainous Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith), Mexican flyer El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui), and Indian champion Ishanti (Priyanka Chopra). Requesting help from WWII legend Skipper (Stacy Keach), Dusty works his way to becoming a flying ace, only to face his greatest fear: heights. As the contest takes off, Dusty, flying low to the ground, fights to stay in the race, befriending a few of his competition along the way. However, as the Dusty begins to realize his potential, Ripslinger has other plans for the little plane, while Skipper reveals a secret that forces the crop duster to lose confidence in himself.

It takes roughly three minutes before “Planes” makes a fart joke, an obvious gag considering the main character is a crop duster spraying a particularly stinky chemical. The script’s sense of humor is established from the get-go, with writer Jeffrey M. Howard making no effort to inject some wit into the Disney production, instead using bathroom humor, cultural stereotypes, and plane-centric wordplay to piece together jokes. Howard also liberally takes plot points from the two “Cars” pictures, mimicking Lightning McQueen’s relationship with mentor Doc Hudson, while “Cars 2” concentrated on a global race with multinational competitors -- not quite the expanse of the “Planes” showdown, but close enough. It’s lazy writing, reheating the Pixar formula to help the picture pass as the real deal (the powerhouse animation company did not produce this movie). Although it plays directly to children, the feature doesn’t even try to find a streak of cleverness, preferring a bland routine of stale jokes and broad accents (competitors also arrive from Canada and England) to tickle, leaving the burden of entertainment on the visuals.

The CG-animation is quite impressive for what’s essentially a DTV spin-off that lucked into a theatrical release. “Planes” has the benefit of its titular characters, who provide more dramatic screen movement than a group of boring old cars. Director Klay Hall respects the thrill of flight, preserving swoops and speed, focusing on the freedom of the sky and the challenges of training as Dusty maneuvers through a landscape of silos and trees, tasked with outrunning the shadows of higher flying planes. The movie looks impressive despite enjoying less detail than the “Cars” features. It has momentum and a sense of grace with the aerial sequences, while character designs are predictable but amusing. Working with a limited budget and the pressure to match Pixar, Hall does a competent job, wisely emphasizing skyward potential instead of keeping the planes grounded.

The script doesn’t trust the Wings Around the Globe concept to fill time, adding superfluous business with Skipper’s questionable flight record and a detour onto to an aircraft carrier (the U.S.S. Flysenhower) to bestow Dusty with an emotional arc. It’s deflating stuff, used to pad the run time while the movie’s excitement level drops dramatically. “Planes” is best left in the skies, with the participants battling and bonding as they slingshot around Earth, with numerous locations adding variety to the visuals. Instead, the picture sticks to a template to play it safe, and it cools the viewing experience considerably.

Starring: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Priyanka Chopra, Cedric the Entertainer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese
Director: Klay Hall

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