Editor’s Notes: Planes opens in wide release today, August 9th. Check your local listing for showtimes.
The family film carries with it a stigma. The candy-coated sweetness and animated zaniness deters the cynical adult filmgoer. Why should I, a grown up with a job and bills to pay, bother with some nonsensical film without live actors? To be close-minded to the more adolescently geared film is wrong. To be dismissive of an entire genre merely because of its label is blindingly shortsighted. If recent animation in an international market, for Studio Ghibli has an importance on par with Pixar’s, has shown us anything, it is that this medium is not as limited as many believe. The opening of Up alone is emotionally devastating and communicates loss universally, leaving more than a few adults in tears. So what film are we talking about? Planes? Oh, then screw everything I just said.
There is something so smug and upsetting about Planes. What we have here is a film that was set up as a direct-to-video film but when reexamined for its earning potential was retooled ever so slightly to fill the big screen.
Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) is a small town cropduster with dreams of racing. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t built for speed and has a crippling fear of heights. Dusty refuses to be limited by his situation and trains regularly for his day in the spotlight. When a last minute adjustment grants Dusty entrance into a renowned around-the-world air race, he looks to war veteran Skipper Riley (Stacy Keach) for coaching. Under the tutelage of Skipper, Dusty sets out to silence his critics and make his dream a reality.
There is something so smug and upsetting about Planes. What we have here is a film that was set up as a direct-to-video film but when reexamined for its earning potential was retooled ever so slightly to fill the big screen. And not only that, but they went and retrofitted it with 3D to get that extra bump of cash. No, just no. You can basically see the studio executives drooling in their own greed.
Planes is a spinoff of the Cars series. If you weren’t sure of that, the film is quick to remind you, flashing the Cars logo before even establishing the title of its own film. Cars already gave us Cars 2, which is the most critically shrug worthy to derided product from Pixar, and now it has yielded this slop. At this point can we just admit that Cars is officially the ultimate villain of the Pixar universe? But here’s the thing, although Planes is inexorably tied to Cars, it isn’t even a Pixar production. This is from DisneyToon Studios, the purveyor of every unknown sequel to the beloved films of your childhood. I guess the low quality shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise.
The set up is derivative and the lengths of rehash that the film explores are just plain rude. Dusty is Lightning McQueen in Cars 2, minus the success. Even Dusty’s hometown, Propwash Junction, might as well be called Midwest Radiator Springs. The characters are poorly established and the relationships shallow. One of the characters is Mexican, so obviously he would wear a luchador mask because, racism. The story is utterly predictable to the point of being offensive to any audience, regardless of age. We deserve better than this. The script is sloppily written, pedestrian and completely soulless. There is no reason to care about the characters, many of which possess sensibilities that change simply to suit the story and lend a pretense of drama. On top of the general story issues, the jokes do not hit, with the minor exception of the most romantic rendition of “Love Machine” I have ever witnessed, and it bores in its simplicity. Amid these core incompetencies are some more troubling elements. Most jarring is a flippancy with death that is off-putting to say the least. Additionally, the connection to the Cars world is forced and often confusing. Why have we never heard planes speak before? Why do mostly cars seem to be the fans of air racing? Are cars and planes different species? Is Ishani’s rear propeller some kind of birth defect? These are questions that could drive one to lunacy and are probably better left unexplored.
Even the animation is lackluster. Gone is the strong attention to detail. The speed of the planes seems to buffer the weak development of the surroundings.
Even the animation is lackluster. Gone is the strong attention to detail. The speed of the planes seems to buffer the weak development of the surroundings. The crowd work alone is a boil on the film’s back. The stands appear to be populated by a glorified process of cut and paste. The cars all look the same and the few planes that pop up (seriously, wouldn’t the stands be mostly planes?) are only different in color. The central concept is that of an around-the-world race but we see shockingly little of the surrounding world. Instead, we get repeated ocean views and backgrounds filled with nondescript trees. Reaction shots from different international locales are repeated as if to say that fans of air racing only exist in these four places. As a theatrical film it all looks slightly messy and incomplete, perhaps a smaller screen would’ve made it a bit more palatable.
Cars is a cash cow. What it lost in critical favor it more than made up in ticket sales and merchandise payback. The sequel made sense and at the very least, was nice to look at. Planes is like a Cars chotsky. It has a passing connection to a thing your kids love, but it’s kind of cheaply made and, let’s be honest, will probably break in a month. It is an assemblage of a story retread, unfunny dialogue and disappointing animation. It isn’t made for you to enjoy, but merely to pass the time and sell toys. I caution to say it is like Cars in the air, because this film does not belong in the same building as the former. Planes is unoriginal, unattractive, tiresome and more concerned with your wallet than your enjoyment. Please don’t let them make Boats or Trains. What’s that? They’ve already green lit a Planes sequel?! Well, shit.
[notification type=”star”]15/100 ~ UNBEARABLE. Planes is unoriginal, unattractive, tiresome and more concerned with your wallet than your enjoyment.[/notification]