There’s no ifs or buts about it, Cars is Disney’s biggest moneymaker solely thanks to outstanding merchandising profits and probably without the need to even consider the film sales themselves. Year on year, the shelves expand as other Disney lines are cancelled, and it’s one of the only lines that endures even beyond seasonal market fluctuations. And since Disney clearly loves money, it’s not really surprising anyone that they have moved on to Planes even without Pixar.
As far as quality goes Cars is probably the worst franchise in Pixar’s portfolio, so what happens when Disney jumps headfirst into a franchise successor all alone? Well, you get a movie that treats its audience intelligence level so low that before the opening Planes logo is splashed on screen, it reminds you that you are in the Cars universe.
Dusty Crophopper is a crop dusting plane who just wants to race other planes but that’s not why I hate him. Dusty is obnoxiously voiced by the most irritating comedian on the planet, Dane Cook. Even Dusty’s animated expressions are as fraternal and irritating as Dane Cook stumbles through dialogue and occasionally does some trademark yelling. It is like some casting bigwig at Disney stroked their beard and said “Pixar hit it big by casting Larry The Cable Guy, so let’s just do something similar”.
And then on a random Friday aforementioned Disney executives got drunk in the office and played darts on a dartboard chock full of D-list comedians that would gladly take the money and dishonor from partaking in such an awful animated film.
Nevertheless, Dusty has big dreams of racing which is admirable and something viewers can get behind; that is until they realize a key reoccurring plot point is that he fears heights. A multitude of forgettable characters provide moral support including a dimwitted fuel truck, a forklift that provides mechanical assistance, and a Navy plane veteran unable to fly anymore. Dusty races low to the ground as the movie sloppily conveys messages that aerial racing is not about speed, but rather how you fly. This unfortunately results in a plethora of racing scenes unenthusiastically presented from a lower perspective.
The entire plot device in general is just really stupid when you stop and say to yourself “This is an animated movie about a plane scared of heights”. Despite his setbacks, Dusty earns an opportunity to participate in a race around the world but the competition isn’t all that exciting either. There are seven legs to the race but the first six have no impact when you factor in that there is no penalty for finishing last. As each new leg begins it’s a clean slate for all the competitors; this is most likely a side effect of such a lazily written plot that is only concerned with placing Dusty in danger or playing off of his fear of heights.
Dusty develops a rival in prime antagonist Ripslinger, an egotistical speed-demon that is the reigning champ. He also has your stereotypical dimwitted lackeys but like most aspects of these characters, they are poorly implemented, forgettable, and pop out so sparsely that when they do appear you are reminded that they exist. There is also an aerial love interest slapped together that goes through the most cliché stages of animated love interests. The only entertaining characters’ come in the form of a Mexico representing plane with a burning desire for love but is completely clueless as to how you court women properly, and a British accented competitor that provides a few laughs whenever he pops up.
Planes could maybe squeeze by as passable if there was comedy to mitigate the boredom or completely plagiarized characterization and story of Cars but unfortunately, it’s just boring, piling on predictable plot points and clichés. The overindulgence in tongue-in-cheek plane puns is also abundant and more annoying than it ever was in Cars. Its only redeeming aspect is the animation and graphical quality but even that is disappointing in detail for a Disney film.
Children may find Planes entertaining if they enjoyed Cars or other Disney films but I only have one question; why see this when there are better alternatives on the market including Despicable Me 2 and Turbo? There are also better animated films on the way including Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, Frozen, or Free Birds. Planes is nothing more than Disney cashing in on a successful franchise while the market is hot. I would not be taken aback if Trains and even more eye-rolling spinoffs are in a process of getting green lit. Planes however, is horrendously slapped together and utterly forgettable for both adults and children.
Planes is in US cinemas now.
This article was first posted on August 9, 2013