PLOT: Dusty Crophopper has big, big dreams that don’t involve his current position in life. Dusty happens to be a crop-duster that longs to race in the wild blue yonder searching for the “highway to the danger zone.” A little bit of an underdog story with a slight hint of TOP GUN, PLANES is all about the power of following your dreams.
This summer has been a very busy year when it comes to animated features. With Pixar and MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, DreamWorks Animation TURBO and of course the massive hit that is DESPICABLE ME 2 from Universal Pictures Illumination Entertainment, there has been no shortage of family friendly material. Thus, this weekend we find ourselves with a brand new adventure from Disney. Set in the same universe as CARS, their latest high flying flick PLANES is pretty self-explanatory. However, unlike the recent CARS 2 which went over-the-top with the whole spy angle, this new film (it should be noted that this is not a Pixar presentation) is another simple underdog story.
Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) is a crop-duster that dreams of racing high in the wild blue yonder. Well, on second thought, not that high as he also happens to be afraid of heights. Yet the idea of competing in the esteemed Wings Around the World is so great for him that he decides to try and qualify. With the help of his trusty sidekick Mater… er, I mean Chug (Brad Garrett) and the doubting yet supportive Dottie (Teri Hatcher), he reaches for the sky so to speak. Of course he also finds a bit of unexpected help from a currently out of commission plane named Skipper (Stacy Keach) who claims to have seen a number of battles in his day – this whole sub-plot felt like it was inspired by AIRPLANE. With his gang by his side, Dusty narrowly makes the cut thanks to one of his competitor’s use of illegal stimulus... steroids for planes maybe?
When Dusty ultimately races with some of “the best of the best” - another minor TOP GUN reference for fun - he gets a heaping helping of what the real world is like. His idol Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith) is an egotistical jerk and many of the other racers are either shady or untrustworthy. The myriad of characters include Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Rochelle, Cedric the Entertainer as Bulldog and probably the most creative casting with Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer as Echo and Bravo respectively. One thing that I did appreciate was the lack of huge stars in the leading roles. Not that these folks aren’t very successful actors, but it was refreshing to have a familiar voice with a little mystery. Smith was a great choice for the “villain” role as the actor is known for doing animation and he is darn good at it.
With a script by Jeffrey M. Howard, the basic idea of never giving up and trying to live up to your dreams is taken on. And to be fair, this isn’t too bad a story for the young ones that still may hold onto flights of fancy. Yet somehow PLANES looks and feels like something more appropriate for a home video release as opposed to a big screen presentation in 3D. There is something missing here as the script seems to work and the animation isn’t bad, yet PLANES never rises to the heights it should have. While it could have soared, it simply coasts along with a familiar tale without igniting much more than a few minor laughs. For those that felt CARS catered too heavily towards the younger crowd, be prepared for an extra watered down tale of heroism and honest to goodness ambition for the under ten set.
Directed by Klay Hall, PLANES is the kind of middle of the road animated tale that just doesn’t quite work. Even though the CARS franchise is probably the least impressive from Pixar, CARS and CARS 2 seem to be a little more inspired than this. Whether or not the 3D element worked is hard to say as I caught the film in 2D with a small audience of mostly children. At least they seemed amused in Dusty’s plight. For the adults in the audience however, it was mostly a case of been there and done that. PLANES is not terrible, it is just not much of anything at all.