A 10,000 Foot Review of Planes

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After years of bouncing back and forth between plans to release in theaters and other plans for a direct to video release, Planes is finally here.  It is, very obviously, a spin-off from the highly successful Cars franchise from Pixar.  However, despite the Pixar-like 3D computer animation, don’t think that this movie comes to us from Pixar.  Instead, it comes to us from DisneyToon Studios – makers of Disney animated sequels like Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and DuckTales: The Movie (recently discussed on the Disney Film Project Podcast).  Despite not being from Pixar, Cars creator John Lasseter, being in charge of animation at Disney, was the movie’s Executive Producer.

The movie is about a cropduster named Dusty Crophopper that has dreams of becoming a world famous race plane.  As you might expect, there are several obstacles to his achieving this goal as on top of not being a plane built for racing he’s also used to flying low to the ground and therefore afraid of heights.  Unfortunately, despite the buildup of this internal conflict in the movie it doesn’t even really play into the plot at all and is more of a throwaway moment.  The most enjoyable part of the film for me was his training for the race and the metaphor of “chasing shadows” being used to represent the main character chasing his dreams.

My biggest problem with the movie is the main character himself.  As opposed to Cars, where Lightning McQueen is clearly the main character of the movie, Dusty gets lost in the vast array of other racers and characters in the movie who are simply more interesting than he is.  I don’t really find this that surprising considering other characters played by Dane Cook tend to have the same problem.  There was a lot of missed opportunity to build this character into something stronger and it just never happens in the film.

After that the movie suffers from the fact that few, if any, people go into the movie understanding what Plane racing even is.  And I still question if it’s even a thing outside of military time trials and air shows.   Not to compare it to Cars again, but people generally understood what car racing is before going to see Cars.  It played off a familiar theme and a passing knowledge of how the core of the story operates, and it did a fantastic job of capturing similar themes from movies like Rocky.  At that same feeling, Planes fails.

The movie itself was enjoyable, but it’s not great, and good is debatable.  I feel that I enjoyed the snail racing movie Turbo more than I enjoyed planes.  Parents however should be prepared to take children to see this movie.  They too won’t like it as much as Cars, but all the advertising mentions Cars, so your kids will be clamoring to see it.

In addition to doing the web designer and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.  You can listen to him and his fellow hosts discuss Planes in an upcoming episode.

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