‘Planes’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 9th, 2014 at 6:56 pm,

planes movie review dane cook Planes Review

Planes is passable direct-to-video animated entertainment for kids – featuring action sequences that are more cinematic in their style.

Planes – the new 3D computer-animated feature released by DisneyToon Studios – is described as being an underdog story that takes place in the “World of Carsyet, the actual movie doesn’t contain any direct references or connections to that lucrative Pixar franchise. Here, the protagonist is Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), a scrappy small-town crop-dusting plane with big dreams – which include competing with the greatest high-flying aces of the world.

Dusty, with guidance from his bosses/friends – a jolly fuel truck named Chug (Brad Garrett) and the practical-minded ace mechanic/fork lift known as Dottie (Teri Hatcher) – takes the first steps towards qualifying for a prestigious air-race around the globe. He eventually seeks help from Skipper Riley (Stacy Keach), a reclusive old aviator who is no longer capable of flight – but who’s wise in the ways of how to maneuver speedily through the air. However, Dusty soon discovers that he has another major obstacle to overcome (if he wants to win the big race) – namely, he is terrified of scaling great heights.

planes movie review characters Planes Review

Chug, Dottie and Skipper

Planes began as a direct-to-video project, but it then received a theatrical upgrade – after early footage from the movie impressed Walt Disney Picture studio heads during pre-production. Indeed, there are a number of aerial racing sequences in the movie that can fairly be described as slick in construction and having captured a child-like sense of wonder, when it comes to creating the fun sensation of soaring through the atmosphere (more so when viewed in 3D). Unfortunately, in terms of storytelling, character development, and certain technical elements (for example, scene-by-scene editing), Planes offers noticeably amateurish direction by Klay Hall (a former supervising director on the cult TV animated comedy King of the Hill).

The script was written by Jeffrey M. Howard (Tinker Bell), but was based on a story concept that was co-created by Pixar legend John Lasseter. However, the Planes story poorly retreads a central theme in the first Cars installment (i.e. that shinier and fancier doesn’t mean better) up to the final act, at which point certain plot developments appear to contradict that idea. Similarly, Dusty’s motivation – to do something other than what he was designed for – has potential from a storytelling perspective, but it amounts to little more than a couple throw-away lines near the beginning and end of the movie. What little heart and substance Planes has comes from the relationship between Dusty and Skipper – which offers familiar lessons about the student-teacher connection, but also manages to give each character a complete (if thin) arc.

planes movie review dusty ripslinger Planes Review

Dusty Crophopper and Ripslinger

There are a ton of anthropomorphic vehicles featured in Planes (just take a look at our complete character guide), but the majority of them have been given little to no real personality – nor are they all that relevant to the overarching plot – and feel like they exist primarily to sell toys and Planes merchandise down the line. As it stands, many of them are just cultural stereotypes realized as anthropomorphic planes (example: John Cleese voices “the British one,” Carlos Alazraqui voices “the Latino one,” etc.). That’s in addition to the antagonist Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith) – a generic arrogant champion (in plane form) – and the semi-love interest Ishani (Priyanka Chopra), whose nationality is her most memorable trait.

Planes is most-engaging during the sequences that revolve around the high-flying races nearby various natural landmarks and obstacles (snowy mountains, ocean storms, rocky canyons); these tend to be the same moments where the 3D factor offers some genuine fun, for both kids and adult viewers. Nonetheless, the movie suffers from observably rocky transitionary editing between scenes – and every so often, even some uneven editing within an individual scene. Similarly, Planes fails to impress from an animation standpoint, as it has neither the organic texture of Pixar’s work or the cartoonish expressiveness of other studio films; not to mention, many individual animated shots are weak (in terms of composition and layout).

planes movie review action scene Planes Review

At the end of the day, Planes is passable direct-to-video animated entertainment for kids – featuring action sequences that are more cinematic in their style - but the movie doesn’t deserve a theatrical release, when viewed as a whole. No doubt, many young moviegoers will still enjoy large segments of the film (especially if they see it in 3D), which may well be reason enough for some families to give it a look. Regardless, it’s difficult to ignore how Planes ends up feeling like little more than an (often) dull and nearly-soulless cash grab.

… One that Disney clearly expects to payoff, considering that the sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue is already scheduled for theatrical release in July 2014.

In case you’re still undecided about whether or not to see the movie, here is the trailer for Planes:

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Planes is 92 minutes long and Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor. Now playing in 2D and 3D theaters around the U.S.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. I think they are really Stretching this series….if they had made this different from the Cars then it could’ve worked.I wasn’t in this movie from the first teaser.although I love first cars.

  2. Not, in the slightest bit, surprised by this rating…

  3. There’s seriously a sequel already planned for next year? My word.

  4. Luckily for Disney, kids don’t read reviews.

    All they see is Planes, like Cars, Disney… and it’s “Me want watch Planes!”.

    Still thinking this will be #1 this weekend.

  5. so which is worse planes or smurfs 2

    • Which evil or more evil?
      ..Probably this. At least Smurfs 2 was made with the intention of going to theaters. This was made for DVDs.

      • *is more evil.

        Hate typos.

      • I’d say The Smurf’s 2, which is one of the worst kids movies I’ve seen in a while. Planes was pretty bad, but at least watchable.

  6. He’s a cropduster. Dusting crops that yield food for…. whom? I wonder how this film fits into the theory that all Pixar movies are part of the same universe. The theory is that Cars takes place on an Earth where humans have died out and machines have gained intelligence.

    • Correction: Humans haven’t died, they live in space now!

      • @Robert W:

        Good one. They should have had some ads for Buy N Large placed in the movie.

    • Maybe he’s dusting the crops to go into the biofuels for all the vehicles? That would make sense.

  7. Uhmm… what’s next? BOATS?

  8. All the movies based on vehicles in the Disney/Pixar lineup are strictly for revenue purpose only–that is, if not in box office receipts then definitely in merchandise. It is a shame, but the Cars series draws some serious revenues in toys for the Mouse. We can only pray that the series either boosts up its storytelling quality or kids learn better than to watch this garbage.

  9. I’m someone who actually really liked Cars. Not one of Pixar’s best films or anything, but still really good. Cars 2? Umm, no. Not terrible, but not good either. The only thing good about Planes was that Pixar wasn’t involved, because this movie was bland, cliché, and uninspired. In other words, exactly what Pixar DOESN’T usually do.

    And why is Disney so obsessed with this franchise now? If money is all they care about, then couldn’t they at least make a sequel to The Incredibles? Plenty of people are asking for it, and considering how huge superhero films are now, everyone wins!

  10. Oh god, I just read that this is the start of a planned TRILOGY! WHY?!?

    At least Pixar is getting better. I thought Monsters University was great, which gives me hope for that company. Disney? Yeah, they’re really losing it.

  11. Lasseter made this because he wanted his creations to come to life, not for money. I probably would have done the same, but I would have at least directed it myself so as to avoid any changes in development.

  12. 1st day 1st show was a big big disappointment! Waste of time and money spent… Not at all up to the Disney standard. Seems like they’ve released the raw print. Not at all entertaining and the movie does not engage the audience at all. My 2 year old seemed sooo excited before the movie and made me spent a huge amount on the merchandising at the Disney store. But yesterday after watching the movie he’s revived his love for cars again!

  13. This just seems so stupid lol…

  14. this is one movie that I have to say – this one is for all of us underdogs – Bullies beware – the day may come when we underdogs surprise all of you… if there is to be another movie in this continuity I hope they remember its about the story… this is definately a worthy successor to Cars