Stars: Dane Cook, Teri Hatcher, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Priyanka Chopra, Cedric the Entertainer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Carlos Alazraqui, John Cleese | Written by Jeffrey M. Howard | Directed by Klay Hall
The first shot of Disney’s latest animated feature, is almost disclaimer-like, in telling you you’re in the ‘world of Cars’. Indeed the film is set in the same world as Pixar’s 2006 and 2011 Cars films, but this isn’t a Pixar film, and so having the expectations of one from Planes is probably unfair.
Dusty Crophopper, voiced by Dane Cook, dreams of being a racer, but instead is stuck in the life of fertilising crops. He isn’t built to race, and he’s afraid of heights, but it doesn’t stop him from trying. Determined to prove himself, he competes in Wings of the Globe, a race that literally goes all the way round the world.
Planes follows a familiar pattern, maybe a little close to its Pixar counterpart; Dusty is essentially the same character as Lightning McQueen, just in different circumstances. He has a goofy sidekick as well, Chug, who serves the same purpose as Mater, and he also has Skipper, his mentor, who plays the role that Doc Hudson played in Cars. It’s not a completely unoriginal film, but it feels too much the same, without being as good as the first one. Most people tend to have more general knowledge of cars, rather than planes, so a lot of references to models etc. might be lost on majority of its audience.
Despite its similarities to Cars, some of the movie is quite enjoyable. There are a number of good jokes, but they’ll only really work for younger audiences. Since the competition is global, there’s a whole range of horribly cliched characters, like the Spanish El Chupacabra, the French Canadian Rochelle, and most cringeworthy, British competitor Bull Dog, voice by John Cleese. It wasn’t offensively stereotypical, just not actually funny. Playing a fairly significant role, and kind of love interest, is Ishani, the Pan-Asian champion, originally from India, and voiced by Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra. I’m glad they chose her, as her accent is obviously Indian, without being too deep. They did throw in a sacred cow references, by making them tractors, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the British jokes.
3D in these kind of family films has just become a given, and it’s like they’re not even trying anymore. I can’t remember a moment where I thought the 3D was really necessary in this, and you’d think since there’s so much flying there would be many scenes with potential for a great 3D shot. I enjoyed the music, by Mark Mancina, except for the use of an A. R. Rahman song over a scene between Dusty and Ishani. I understand wanting to use Indian music, but it was badly edited, and just seemed lazy.
I don’t want to be too critical of Planes, because it really is not so bad, but in a summer with Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University, there’s a lot of competition from much better animated films, and considering they’re spinning off from a universe that is Pixar’s creation, it is seriously lacking in the heart and overall quality their films have. It was originally meant as a straight-to-DVD feature, and I don’t know at what point in production it changed, but instead of seemingly rushing to release it this Summer, they should have taken more time to at least make it on par with its predecessor.
Planes is out in the US on 9th August, and in the UK on 16th August 2013.