[Screen It]


(2013) (voices of Dane Cook and Stacy Keach) (PG)

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Animated Action: A crop-dusting plane dreams of competing in an aerial race around the world.
On an alternate Earth inhabited solely by sentient aircraft, boats, cars, and trucks, Dusty (voice of DANE COOK) is a crop-dusting plane who dreams of competing in a global aerial race. One problem. He is afraid of heights. This is a problem in that he is unable to climb to altitudes that would put him in tailwinds that would make him go as fast as traditional racers. Nevertheless, he qualifies for the competition with help from the dimwitted fuel truck, Chug (voice of BRAD GARRETT); the goodhearted repair vehicle, Dottie (voice of TERI HATCHER); and Skipper (voice of STACY KEACH), a veteran war plane who has been grounded ever since a traumatic mission decades earlier.

Dusty makes it to the starting line where he encounters a menagerie of racing planes. They include El Chupacabra (voice of CARLOS ALAZRAQUI), a Latino plane with a flair for the dramatic; Rochelle (voice of JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS), a French plane who becomes romantically involved with El Chupacabra; Bulldog (voice of JOHN CLEESE), a British aircraft who doesn't believe in offering any form of help to the competition; and Ishani (voice of PRIYANKA CHOPRA), a female plane who flirts with Dusty but has a hidden agenda.

The most formidable of Dusty's competition is the frequent champion, Ripslinger (voice of ROGER CRAIG SMITH), who doesn't believe Dusty belongs in the competition and goes to great lengths to ensure that the goodhearted crop-duster does not finish the race. Dusty must overcome Ripslinger's scheming and his own self-doubts in order to fly with the best of the best.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Disney's "Planes" is one of those movies that any adult movie critic will find that he/she has to write his/her review immediately after, or else the film will evaporate from one's memory in a day or two. This is one of the blandest, paint-by-numbers efforts I've seen in a major theatrical release in some time. First of all, it's set in the "Cars" universe which was already tired and played-out by the second film in its series. Two, it features cardboard, one- and two-dimensional characters who are plugged into a tired, hackneyed racing plot stretched out over nearly the entire length of the film. And three? Ugh. It's August. With "Monsters University," "Despicable Me 2," "Turbo," and "The Smurfs 2," I am suffering from animation overload. I needed something a lot more daring and innovative than this to get my interest.

Yeah, it's all here, folks. Underdog character who dreams of being more than he is designed to be? Check. A beloved champion who is really a scheming, egotistical villain? Check. A big race that will come down to the very final leg? Check. Quirky side characters with one personality trait each who will nonetheless be made into junky, plastic toys destined for landfills serviced by post-apocalyptic Wall-E droids one day? Check, check, check.

Now, yes. I know. I gave a very positive review just a couple of weeks back of "Turbo," a flick in which an underdog snail dreamed up being a NASCAR racer who eventually ran afoul of a scheming, egotistical champion bent on preventing that from happening. The difference, I think, comes down to style and writing. "Turbo" featured a cast of endearing characters with interesting viewpoints and surprising humor. The set-up in that film is more daring, too.

In "Planes," the clichés just pile up and there is little attempt made to deviate from formula. This is surprising considering how much guidance Pixar guru John Lasseter reportedly gave the people who made this. On the positive side, the film is certainly efficient in its storytelling. It's a lean film, told in an extremely straight-forward way and well animated. A couple of sequences are actually quite stunning, such as the initial start of the race as all of the planes launch (kind of the film's fleet-jumping-to-hyperspace moment a la "Return of the Jedi"). And being a child of the '80s, I couldn't help but grin ear to ear when I heard the voices of Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards as fighter jets who help the main character, Dusty (voice of Dane Cook), at a key moment in the film. Iceman and Goose -- oh, yeah!

But, yeah, this is the point in the review where most critics would break out the aviation puns and be as clichéd as the film. I'm not going to do that. I am grounding myself before I even take flight with that kind of writing. The only thing that kept my attention actually was my constant wondering of -- uh -- WHAT HAPPENED TO THE HUMANS IN THIS WORLD?!

Seriously, these "Cars" flicks are startin' to creep me out. They are clearly set on Earth. "Planes," in particular, features identifiable settings ranging from Nebraska and New York to Germany and the Himalayas. Mention is made of "Old Yeller." There is a fly-by of the Taj Mahal. Is this the ultimate outcome of a "Terminator"-like future in which humanity was eradicated by these sentient vehicles, who have spread their clichés and machine lifestyles across our planet?

I must do my part to prevent that from happening! I must pan their latest film! This aggression will not stand! And I will NOT buy their Happy Meal toys! Ooh, and I give "Planes" a 4 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed August 6, 2013 / Posted August 9, 2013

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