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This spinoff of the beloved Cars films follows Dusty the crop duster, who dreams of flying in a race around the world. But in order to qualify for the competition, he'll have to overcome his fear of heights.
For more about Planes and the Planes Blu-ray release, see Planes Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 21, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Priyanka Chopra, Cedric the Entertainer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese
Director: Klay Hall
» See full cast & crew
Planes Blu-ray Review
"I've flown thousands and thousands of miles, and have never gone anywhere."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 21, 2013
High above the world of Cars comes a low-altitude spin-off that never quite takes off. That's right, three aviation puns in one sentence. And if that has you rolling your eyes, brace yourself for director Klay Hall's Planes, a well-intentioned family-friendly racer sure to entertain younger kids, and just the kids. There's nothing particularly terrible about the film, and it's certainly not as bad as you've probably heard. Still, the animation lacks the fresh coat of paint typical of most theatrically released CG-animated spectacles, Jeffrey M. Howard's screenplay relies heavily on familiar cliché after familiar cliché and, sorry to say, the voice cast isn't all that special. Not so surprising considering the psuedo-sequel began its life as a DisneyToon Studios direct-to-video project and was only later promoted to feature film once the powers that be started to see box office potential. And yet Planes remains a decidedly direct-to-video adventure, with Hall and company distilling elements of Cars and Cars 2 into a cute, harmless, ultimately unremarkable underdog story most parents have sat through a hundred times before.
When a crop duster with big dreams named Dusty (Cook) defies all odds and narrowly qualifies for the globe-spanning Wings Across the World race, he finds himself jetting from New York to Iceland, Germany, India, Nepal, Shanghai, Mexico and back across the United States. To win, he'll have to outmanuever and outrace an array of international fliers, including mean-spirited reigning champ, Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith), and his toadies, Ned and Zed (Gabriel Iglesias); French-Canadian racer, Rochelle (Julia Louis-Dreyfus); stuffy Brit, Bulldog (John Cleese); passionate Mexican Gee Bee, El Chupacabra (Carols Alazraqui); and Indian love interest Ishani (Priyanka Chopra). And it'll take everything Dusty's got, along with a little help from his friends: best friend Chug (Brad Garrett), mechanic Dottie (Teri Hatcher), reluctant mentor Skipper Riley (Stacey Keach), forklift Sparky (Danny Mann), Super Hornet duo Bravo and Echo (Top Gun alumni Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards), and others who rally behind the crop-dusting upstart.
Despite Hall and Howard's best efforts -- and the two do make a concerted effort -- there's not a lot to Planes that isn't derived from the series' core films. From the quaint but sharply penned Cars comes the clash of vehicular cultures and destinies, the racing scene, a fish out of water adventure, a romantic subplot, a crusty old racing mentor haunted by his past, a cocky rival desperate to win at all costs (he's even green and black, just like ol' Chick Hicks), several sidekicks in the making, and, of course, a glimpse into the eerie but amusing world of sentient cars with no human masters. (Why is Dusty dusting crops exactly? Other than the fact that he's a crop duster?) From the maligned Cars 2 comes the international hotspots, a colorful cast of multinational racers (each one showcasing a bigger stereotype than the last), the thrills and chills of a worldwide race mixed with... you get the idea. Planes is at its finest when imagining how a society of planes would function in the larger Cars world, and when humanizing its aeros and autos. But sparks of imagination don't seem to come as freely or frequently as before, and Dusty's rise to fame is far more derivative than it is original.
Ironically, had Planes never dared to dream more than a direct-to-video dream, it would have been more successful. The film struggles to inflate itself to theatrical proportions, reaching for the stars and barely lifting off the ground. There are laughs to be had, an exciting but predictable race to follow, and enough lovable personalities -- yes, even Cook's Dusty -- to keep the movie in the air. It rarely soars, though, and even at its best, tends to skim the surface of its potential. Adults would do well to watch the disc's behind-the-scenes featurette, "Klay's Flight Plan", and only then giving Planes a go. Realizing how much of the film was a personal passion project for Hall makes for a richer experience. The story still only skims the surface, but the heart it proudly wears on its wings suddenly begins to shine that much brighter. Kids, on the other hand, needn't invest any prep time. Planes will strike anyone under ten as a fun, wondrous race across the skies of one of their favorite animated universes; one with a few life lessons worth reinforcing. (Minus the old you can be anything you want to be when you grow up myth, which most of us spread to children all too eagerly even though we know full well it's little more than a lovely sentiment.) As family entertainment geared for the grade school set goes, it excels. As a Pixar spin-off, though, it lacks a certain level of magic, wit and refinement.
Planes Blu-ray, Video Quality
Disney's Planes looks great on Blu-ray, with only a hint of banding creeping into the otherwise pristine 1080p/AVC-encoded proceedings. Colors are bright, vibrant and playful, and bathed in convincing light and shadow. Primaries are strong and black levels inky, with consistent contrast and unhindered clarity. Detail is quite striking, with crisp edges and exacting textures, and aliasing isn't a concern. Nor is macroblocking, ringing or any other unsightly anomaly for that matter. And while there's a bit of filmic, wind-born softness present whenever Dusty and his competitors lift high above the Earth, it never amounts to an issue, and only enhances the illusion of flight. Planes may not be the prettiest Pixar sequel or spin-off, but it holds its own beautifully.
Planes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Perhaps more thrilling is Planes' DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, even if the film's original sound design isn't really all that engrossing. Dialogue is crystal clear and perfectly prioritized, without anything in the way of muffled or buried lines. Voices tend to float in the mix, but no more so than in most animated films. LFE output, meanwhile, embraces every engine chug and roar, propeller drone, and dive-bomb attack, making the most of the adventure's every racing sequence. The rear speakers are quite active as well, with an endless assortment of directional and ambient effects. Racers zoom seamlessly from one channel to the next, the soundfield is suitably enveloping, and hardfought losses and narrow victories take full advantage of every asset at their disposal. Quieter moments are slightly flatter and less immersive, but no matter. Planes sounds as good as it looks, and as far as I can surmise, couldn't sound much better.
Planes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack Contents (Subject to Change): The initial combo pack release of Planes features a slipcover (with the original pressing), a single BD-50 disc, a standard DVD copy of the film, and a downloadable digital copy that "works with iTunes."
Planes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Planes would have been better off abandoning the racing scene of the first two Cars movies and focusing instead on something new to the series' universe. Private and commercial aviation, the Air Force, the daring rescue work glimpsed in the trailer for next years Planes: Fire & Rescue... just a few of the tantalizing possibilities that would have set Hall's spin-off free. Not that kids will care. Younger children will have a blast, if only because they won't notice just how much Planes begs, borrows and lifts from a hundred other underdog stories. Disney's Blu-ray release is more satisfying, fortunately, with an excellent video presentation and involving DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track. Its supplemental package is much too direct-to-video for a film that earned a theatrical release, but complaints end there. Bottom line? You could do a whole lot worse this holiday season. Planes is perfect for the kiddies, even if it will prove somewhat disappointing for parents.
Planes: Other Editions
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Planes Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Disney's Planes 2D & 3D Blu-rays - September 27, 2013
Walt Disney Home Entertainment has officially announced and detailed the Blu-ray release of DisneyToon Studios' Planes, which is set to arrive via 2D and 3D BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo packs later this fall. The high-flying animated adventure features the voice talents ...
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