Photo: ©2013 Disney Enterprises

Director(s): Klay Hall

Writer(s): Jeffrey M. Howard

Cast: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Carlos Alazraqui, Roger Craig Smith, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Sinbad and Gabriel Iglesias

Reviewed by: Ian Evans on

Release Date(s)

Aug 9, 2013 - Wide

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As a young boy, I’d occasionally run through the schoolyard with my arms outstretched pretending I was racing through the clouds like a speedy plane. So I had high hopes when I went to see Disney’s new 3D animated film Planes. Unfortunately, those hopes stalled shortly after takeoff.

The film stars Dane Cook as the voice of Dusty Crophopper, a crop dusting plane who wants to be an air racer but finds himself spraying the same fields near Prop Wash Junction day after day with an old biplane, Leadbottom (Cedric the Entertainer). He has the full support of best friend Chug (Brad Garrett), a fuel truck, and the reluctant support of forklift/mechanic Dottie (Teri Hatcher). After getting accepted into the Wings Around the World air race, Dusty even gets some mentoring from a WWII navy fighter named Skipper (Stacy Keach) who tries to finesse the problems out of Dusty’s flying style, including one big one: he’s afraid of heights.

As Dusty enters the race, he faces tough competition and condescension from a variety of planes including the three-time champion Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith), Indian plane Ishani (Priyanka Chopra), the British plane, Bulldog (John Cleese), and the French-Canadian, Rochelle (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). The only real friend he finds on his travels is El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui), a Mexican plane who fancies himself as a hot-blooded lover and relentlessly woos Rochelle.

While Planes is a spin-off of Cars (we see a World of Cars logo at the beginning) this film isn’t from the folks at Pixar but from DisneyToon Studios, the corporate unit tasked with churning out the direct-to-video sequels and spin-offs of popular Disney franchises. The powers that be decided to give Planes a theatrical release but the film still has the overall feel of a product designed to sell sheet sets and toys and keep young children entertained while dinner is made. There are a few funny moments, mostly from the scene-stealing El Chupacabra, but other than that the laughs are few and far between. The race takes the racers all over the globe, but except for a few good aerial shots of great landscapes, a lot of the action takes place at airports. As any frequent flyer can tell you, all airports start to look the same and that takes the excitement level down to the same thrill you get waiting for your luggage at the carousel. While there are a few nods to the adults — like a Topgun reunion featuring the voices of Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards and a Boston-accented JFK control tower — most of the material is aimed at the little ones. I did think one World War II flashback scene was a little dark with anthropomorphic fighter planes meeting their demise and speaking of dark, I’m not sure if it was projection issues, but the film itself seemed a little toned down visually. If we’re going to be going up into the wild blue yonder, shouldn’t it be sunny some of the time? I also didn’t find that the 3D was that immersive and I’ve had better film flight experiences at a 2D IMAX film. Perhaps the 3D was an afterthought as this was originally targeted for home viewing.

I wanted to enjoy the movie and though I didn’t hate it, this is one flight you’re okay to miss.

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