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Planes – Movie Review

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Planes – Movie Review

Rating: D+ (Bad)

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The universe of Cars is an interesting idea, even if the inner workings do not make a lot of sense. Making spin-off films concentrating on other talking modes of transportation has some potential to work and the decision by head Disney honcho John Lasseter to assign them to the studio’s direct-to-video department made sense. The last minute idea to take Planes and give it a theatrical release shows an air of confidence at the House of Mouse that this was more special and deserving of its treatment. However, the final result brings to mind decade-ago projects from Michael Eisner’s reign, in which the studio’s clearly low-budget animated efforts like Doug’s 1st Movie were brought to the big screen. Why am I watching something in a cinematic environment, which is clearly meant for television sets?

Outside out of some well-crafted flight sequences, nothing in Planes screams out that it deserved a theatrical release. The most shocking part of it all is how boring it is. Even some lesser animated features have some visual panache to them, but Planes is so generic in both its story and look, it becomes a slow trip to the end credits. There is not a single two-dimensional character who jumps out of the page and becomes memorable. Mater, Lightning McQueen and other Cars personalities, who do not even bother to make cameo appearances here, had a life and energy to them. Everyone here is so carefully placed into a specific role that even the voice actors sound bored.

The story fares even worse, when one notices how closely this resembles the much more heart-pounding and funny Turbo. While Turbo was a likeable and interesting lead, Dusty Crophopper the crop-duster with a dream of being a racing airplane is forgettable with no real personality. Planes is basically the Bizarro version of Turbo. Ripslinger, the main villain is about as one-dimensional as you can write an antagonist with the weakest motivation the filmmakers could have possibly come up with. Meanwhile, the other airplanes merely fill the roles of different nationalities and no more: there’s the British plane, the Mexican plane, the Indian plane and the French Canadian plane. Just try and remember their names not long after watching Planes.

The generic and unremarkable feeling in Planes extends to the animation. Disney’s direct-to-video unit has managed to produce cinematic-quality animation in the past, like with their Tinker Bell films, but this one looks rather ordinary. Unlike the Cars series, there is no shine to the visuals and the character animation is very basic. Even the backgrounds are rather flat and unspectacular. The flying scenes are the most well-handled with the camera swooping and turning, conveying the right feelings of flight. While Dusty is flying through a raining storm, the impact is certainly felt. There is not much excitement in the sequences themselves, as Dusty has more than one near-death experience, thus lessening the impact. However, they certainly are the best moments in an otherwise dull film.

The humour is almost nonexistent with clichéd and tired jokes and while they are not eye-rolling, they just sit on the screen flat as a board. Dane Cook, who is a very energetic comedian, is given no room to go wild and actually bring some cartoony humour to Dusty. Even John Cleese and Brad Garrett sound sedated in their supporting roles. The one remotely laugh-out-loud joke in Planes is a singular line poking some light fun at the iPad. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between in a screenplay that caused a lot more yawns than guffaws. Mater may not be the most beloved character among adults, but Dan Whitney was still allowed to have fun and bring energy to the part. The same cannot be the said for the voice actors and it is hard to blame them with the lack of funny material given to them.

The story is so unbelievably generic, every single story beat is seen a mile away. While it is possible to make for a formulaic story if the filmmakers bring enough energy to the material, that is nonexistent in Planes. There seems to lack a sense of excitement and magic on-screen and with so many potential avenues Lasseter and director Klay Hall could have gone down, it is disappointing they picked the most trodden and run-down one. There is not a single new and interesting idea in Planes, which makes it even more perplexing why this was given a theatrical release over its original direct-to-video plans. The likely reasoning was probably for monetary gain and for a producer known for such artistic integrity as John Lasseter, that is a shame. Planes is, sad to say, a babysitting tool and one that even six-year-olds might fall asleep about halfway through. The toys will probably be more entertaining and rewarding to your child than a Blu-Ray copy of Planes.

Review By: Stefan Ellison

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