With the musical chimes of cash registers still ringing in Disney and Pixar executives’ ears, it was only a matter of time before they tried to replicate the almost-too-easy success of those bland movies with this week’s release. Planes is the story of an underdog crop-dusting plane; the good-natured and maddeningly named, Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), who dreams of becoming a world racing plane. Aided by a few friends (Teri Hatcher, Brad Garrett and Stacy Keach), Dusty enters a world-famous aerial race around the globe, pitting him against some of the sky’s best fliers.
Being a lowly crop-duster, it’s of course difficult for Dusty to be taken seriously on the world stage but his dedication earns him the respect of his fellow fliers and the love of his fans.
Quite honestly, it’s bland, vanilla filmmaking for kids at its most mediocre with some hugely outdated cultural stereotypes that you’d have hoped we were past by now. Was it really necessary to have the British plane voiced by John Cleese, call it Bulldog and make him an uptight, pompous ass? The beautiful French plane, Rochelle (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), is of course rude and dismissive and her love interest is a persistent Mexican plane named Chupacabra who wears a traditional wrestling cape.
This is the same company that brought us The Lion King and Toy Story by the way.
Many parents will be forgiving of a film’s shortcoming when it’s intended audience is children, however, lazy filmmaking is inexcusable no matter who the audience is, especially when we already know that Pixar are better than this. Far better. They’re world-builders; they give voices to inanimate objects and make us love them and they write stories that stay with us for years to come. Even cutting Disney and Pixar some slack and saying that Cars and Planes are the bank-rollers for the better animated movies, doesn’t excuse basic flaws and uninspired writing. In a world filled with only talking Cars and Planes, who the hell is Dusty dusting all of these crops for? There are no people in this world!
The movie’s saving grace, if you can call it that, is that aside from the maddeningly insipid plot and characters, it looks good. Not that the younger children will care, but the subtle 3D and often breathtaking animation of exotic locations are a visual treat that keeps this picture’s head just above the water. Of course, children will enjoy the playful characters, bright colours and silly voices but parents be warned: this isn’t Toy Story and if you already had to clench your fists through Cars and Cars 2, brace yourself. You can get through it if you just let your mind wander and ignore all of the ‘adult’ questions that the film raises like, who the hell built all these buildings? And who made all these planes, for that matter? One of several small but infinitely frustrating queries that the series will never answer.
Not to worry though, it’s almost a given that the endless barrage of Planes merchandise that’s about to invade every shop in the world will eventually hypnotise us all into actually being excited about this movie. Oh and by the way, Disney and Pixar have already announced a sequel, Planes: Fire and Rescue.