Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild Action and Rude Humor
Directed by: Klay Hall
Written by: Jeffrey M. Howard
Voices of: Dane Cook, Stacey Keach, Danny Mann, Priyanka Chopra, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Cedric The Entertainer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Roger Craig Smith, Gabriel Iglesias, John Cleese, Carlos Alazraqui, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards & Sinbad
From above the world of CARS. That’s the tagline front and center on the poster of PLANES. It’s a bold-faced marketing trick that suckered enough of the unsuspecting public to believe that this film is actually Pixar creation. This is not true. PLANES is from Disney and the reason they could even use the CARS world is because the company owns Pixar. If it sounds like I’m bitter, it’s because I am. There weren’t any preconceived notions about this one. If anything, there may have been a lingering sense of hope that it might be a fun little piece of family entertainment. I was so very wrong and am firing both barrels at this thing, Let me lay down the premise for you…
Dusty Crophopper is a plane dreaming of competing in aerial races. His role as a cropduster keeps him in the same boring routine day after day. Despite his low-class job, Dusty does go to a qualifying tournament for the prestigious Wings Across The World race. Due to a technicality, Dusty does qualify for the global race. There’s a quirky twist though. Dusty is afraid of heights (a plane afraid of heights, I’d dare call that idea wacky), so begins training under a war veteran named Skipper. Of course, his fierce competitors don’t take too kindly to a lowly farm plane competing with the likes of them. Dusty must overcome his fears, beat his rivals, and make some new friends to win this race.
One might call PLANES an easy target for criticism, because it was intended for children. However, I will use my favorite rebuttal when reviewing films like this. Good family entertainment is entertaining for the whole family! Using the excuse of “Well, the kids liked it. Wasn’t that the point?” is not a valid point. Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, and even Sony Animation all have their fair share of hits and misses, but the hits go on to become memorable classics to be cherished because they were absolutely GOOD films. I’m not intentionally searching out direct-to-video kiddie films to bash on. I know those are dinky little cartoons, but PLANES was released theatrically from a studio well-known for delivering fantastic entertainment. I was at the very least expecting something serviceable, but PLANES fails in every single respect.
There’s a big difference between crude humor and adult humor. PLANES continually mistakes the former for the latter. The film is full of some sexual humor (planes remarking on the back propellers of female planes). Pop culture references that already seem dated are sprinkled in. There is a poop joke thrown in at the end for good measure and even a little offensive religious humor. This is found in the offensively stereotypical character of a plane from India that believes in recycling (instead of reincarnation, get it?) and finds tractors (instead of cows) sacred. Plenty of children’s entertainment (plenty from Disney) have showcased intelligent jokes thrown into their sweet tales of overcoming incredible odds and learning what’s truly important in life. PLANES isn’t one of these films.
Dane Cook provides the voice of Dusty Crophopper and that alone speaks volumes to this films quality. The man can act (e.g. MR. BROOKS), but Cook sounds like he’s just reading lines with a quick paycheck being waved in front of him. In fact, that’s possibly how the recording sessions went. Other washed up comedians populate the side characters, including Gabriel Iglesias and Sinbad. Everybody speaks as if they’re baby-talking the characters for the kids. Fun fact is that this film was originally intended for a direct-to-video release. It was produced by the DisneyToon Studios portion of Disney. DisneyToon has been responsible for every terrible sequel Disney has produced, along with all those cheap-looking CGI films. The animation of PLANES looks about on the same level as these bad films. This more than deserved to make a quick buck on the home video market. It’s insulting and underhanded that Disney put this abomination out in nationwide theatrical release.
Surprisingly, PLANES also never seems to nail precisely what kind of tone it want to use. It’s overly cutesy and familiar, but there’s also a bit of a misguided serious edge in parts. A perfect example of this is a war flashback that comes out of nowhere and involves other planes being blown up and killed. It takes a skillful hand to balance wonderment and a darker side. THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER is a good example of this done right. On the other hand, PLANES is a film that babies its audience for a majority of the film. It makes things a bit startling when the story decides to launch the viewer into this impromptu scene of destruction that feels so radically out-of-place, it’s almost shocking.
The tagline of PLANES shouldn’t read “From above the world of CARS.” It should say “From the director of TINKERBELL AND THE LOST TREASURE and the studio line that gave you all those terrible direct-to-video sequels to beloved classics, comes PLANES. This film was originally slated for a direct-to-DVD release but somehow got put into theaters everywhere.” I also have written what should be the tagline for the upcoming sequel “The first one made money and your kids will drag you to see this one too. See you during next few years for BOATS and TRAINS.” Enough said!