VOCAL WORK BY
Anthony Edwards, Brad Garrett, Cedric the Entertainer, Dane Cook, Larry the Cable Guy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, Sinbad, Stacy Keach, Val Kilmer, Teri Hatcher
Jeffrey M. Howard (Screenplay), John Lasseter (Story)
Walt Disney Cos.
There's a surefire way for a film critic to confirm one's suspicion that an animated feature isn't quite up to par.
It's the surrounding sounds of restless and fidgeting kids who have either become disinterested in the big screen goings on or, quite simply, they never were interested.
For Disney's Planes, the surrounding fidgeting and restless chatter of children started within a few minutes of the film's opening credits and never let up throughout the film's 92-minute running time. You can ignore my opinion if you want, but the kiddoes are a pretty good judge of what works for them and it was clear from early on that Disney's Planes never got off the ground.
It's impossible to watch Planes without thinking about Cars and without wondering if somewhere down the line we're going to be seeing Trains, Amish Buggies, Skateboards and Wheelchairs.
Planes looks and feels that familiar, like Disney maybe decided to offer some high school intern the chance to make a film and all they could come up with was a retread of everything that has been done before. Actually, the film is directedly by Klay Hall. Hall has directed Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure and quite a few episodes of television's Father of the Pride and King of the Hill, the latter being a bit of a surprise considering how little sass and spark there is in this particular film. Planes will appeal slightly more to true airplane buffs mostly owing to its rather faithful versions of familiar planes, but for adults and children alike this is likely to be a film with nothing more to offer than a few eye-popping visuals that are mostly for naught.
There's a reason that Planes feels like a direct-to-video release - it was actually planned that way from point one before some unwise Disney exec got the idea that the film warranted a theatrical release first. The film's storyline feels very Turbo, as Dusty (Dane Cook) the crop duster longs to leave behind his small town ways and gets a chance thanks to mentor Skipper (Stacy Keach), a war relic flyer. The film's first 30 minutes or so is particularly weak, a seemingly endless series of training sequences and psychological pep talks that includes the obligatory overcoming of fear (of heights, no less) and other silliness. The film takes off a bit more when Dusty really takes off around the world, with Disney really capitalizing on such locales as India, Iceland, the Himalayas, and Mexico. The sidekick characters aren't nearly as exotic as the locales with such compatriots as Chug (Brad Garrett), a fuel truck, mechanic Dottie (Teri Hatcher), El Chupacabra (Carlos Alasraqui), Rochelle (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and others.
Planes isn't an awful film, but folks going into it should be warned that neither is it a Pixar film despite having Lasseter's name on the story. Planes is a full-on Disney production and that, even now, still seems to add up to a drop in story and animation quality. Small children and airplane lovers will likely find much to enjoy here, but for most Planes is one film that should find itself grounded from the box-office airways rather quickly.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic