For the first time, Disney has taken a Pixar product — in this case, the Cars franchise — and spun off its own film with Klay Hills’ Planes. Granted, Disney owns Pixar, but the mere idea that Disney would dare encroach on Pixar’s autonomy is probably heretical in some circles, yet they’re at least savvy enough to impugn Pixar’s weakest entries. In a lot of ways, Disney has improved on Cars 2 (e.g., no Larry the Cable Guy to be found), though this is saying very little, since Planes is still pretty stale entertainment, and is obviously a cheap cash grab and a cynical excuse to move some toys.
Planes takes place in the Cars universe, and little about the film feels much different than its Pixar predecessors. Besides perhaps the level of voice talent (Disney apparently thinks comedian Dane Cook is a draw, meaning the movie’s on shaky ground to begin with), this is basically Cars, but with, you know, talking airplanes. Here we get the tale of Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Cook), a lowly cropduster with grand dreams of leaving middle America and becoming a world-class racer. After barely qualifying for the grand race around the globe against a cadre of various hotshot cultural stereotypes, Dusty must defy adversity in order to realize his dreams … and so on and so forth.
I’m not expecting much trailblazing from a Disney film about talking planes, but this has more formula than a baby bottle. In Planes’ defense, it’s hardly offensive, and the aerial scenes are thankfully cinematic. Beyond that, however, the movie doesn’t get much right. It doesn’t get that much wrong either, just existing as a big old lump of half-baked mediocrity. It continues the recent trend — racing snail movie Turbo included — of kid movies that just really make me want to watch the Wachowski’s Speed Racer (2008). I’m sure this was not the director’s intention. Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher