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article imageReview: Disney's 'Planes' fun for kids, predictable for parents Special

By Michael Thomas     Aug 9, 2013 in Entertainment
From the moment protagonist Dusty Crophopper, a crop duster, says that he wants to be a racer, you can predict exactly what will happen in Disney's "Planes." But the ride to the end should keep kids occupied.
Planes, a spin-off of the popular-with-kids Cars franchise, was initially meant to be a direct-to-DVD movie, but was given a theatrical run due to the financial success of the two Cars movies. The latter movies have always been considered the "lemon" of Pixar's fairly impressive film collection, and considering Pixar had nothing to do with this new spinoff, all signs point to this movie being a clunker.
Despite all of that, kids will certainly get a kick out of Planes, and adults accompanying their children may even find a few jokes that go over their children's heads.
Planes takes place in the same world as Cars, where vehicles are the world's inhabitants, replacing both humans and animals. The movie follows Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), a crop duster who dreams of being a world-class racer like Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith), the undefeated champion of the Wings Around the Globe race.
Going against the wishes of his mechanic, a forklift named Dottie (Teri Hatcher) with a little help from his fuel-truck friend Chug (Brad Garrett), Dusty decides to attend the qualifier for the year's Wings Around the Globe race. Initially, Dusty just misses qualification, but when one of his rivals is found to have used a banned fuel (the Planes version of steroids) he suddenly finds himself in the race and feels hopelessly outmatched. Enter war hero Skipper Riley (Stacy Keach) who becomes his mentor.
During the race, Dusty meets his international rivals; there's Rochelle (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a French-Canadian plane; Bulldog (John Cleese), a British plane; Ishani (Priyanka Chopra), an Indian plane and Dusty's love interest; and El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui), a Mexican plane and quickly Dusty's closest friend.
Dusty's role in the race is a typical zero-to-hero story, but the predictability is somewhat offset by the film's visuals. The 3D version of this movie really doesn't use the medium well, but the actual images are pretty to look at and quite colourful. Particularly stunning is the scene of the Wings Around the Globe opening ceremonies, which seems to burst with every colour imaginable. The race itself takes place around the world, and the movie makes every new location distinguish itself from the previous one.
The locations, however, also prove to be a bit of a drawback. As the movie is intended for kids, the writers go readily to stereotypes to represent different cultures. When the race stops in a Bavarian region, the local "bar" is filled with oom pah pah bands, lederhosen and gruff patrons. As the planes fly over China, vehicles with straw hats can be seen.
The characters are also very unfortunate stereotypes at times, particularly El Chupacabra with his luchador mask and Bulldog with his "tea"-drinking forklift. There also several plot holes big enough to fly a plane through, though they'll likely go over kids' heads.
Some of the movie feels like padding, and the movie is only 92 minutes long. There is a rather drawn-out subplot involving Skipper, which, while time-wasting, actually produced the movie's most genuinely heart-wrenching scene. The writers also make a few odd choices along the way, such as injecting some out-of-character American patriotism into a speech El Chupacabra makes toward the movie's end.
Weak points aside, for a kids' film, the humour is surprisingly not juvenile, for the most part. The best joke in the movie comes courtesy of Ishani, who talks about her country's tendency to see tractors (which are apparently the Planes equivalent of cows) as sacred.
Planes will likely not go down in history as one of Disney's best films, but with a sequel already set to be released next year, it will probably be another franchise that kids will eat up.
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