Crash and Burn – A review of Planes

Dane Cook lends his voice to Dusty Crophopper, a cropduster who dreams of competing in a rally race around the world
Dane Cook lends his voice to Dusty Crophopper, a cropduster who dreams of competing in a rally race around the world

Title: Planes

Production Company: DisneyToon Studios

Run Time: 92 minutes

Rated: PG

Director: Klay Hall

Stars: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, John Cleese

3 stars for Planes

Summary: A B-plot and a B-cast are the main indicators that this film could have been great but instead was plucked from the straight-to-DVD box and rushed into theaters for animated filler for August 2013.

The opening frame of this picture touts that this movie is set in the World of Cars, Pixar’s automotive entry into the panoramic animated world so meticulously created for the big screen.

However, while that movie touted big name stars and compelling and multifaceted characters and plots, this movie seems uncharacteristically one dimensional and even a bit condescending for discerning moviegoers.

The cast, for one seems almost plucked from the B-list of Hollywood voice casting. The most well-known names are, without hesitation, Stacy Keach, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (relegated to a secondary role) and Teri Hatcher (also a secondary role).

The story is ho-hum at best, featuring a tale of an underdog cropduster named Dusty Crophopper who seeks to compete in a high profile air rally. It’s not inspired at all and has predictable if credibility challenging results. But then again, this is definitely an animated film aimed primarily at the younger members of the audience.

As is expected, there will be plot elements and humor aimed more at older audience members, but unlike many modern animated classics of today, that humor is less prevalent and the level of pathos won’t move many in the audience.

Even the challenges faced by the planes throughout the course of the story are less than compelling and even, in some cases, feel like forced emotionalism to give the audience something to sink their feelings into.

For instance, when we meet Skipper (Keach), we’re regaled with tales of his bravado and the military achievements of his fighting career. Later, when those achievements are revealed to be nothing more than fibs, we are neither surprised nor moved by the revelation.

Picking Dane Cook (who?) as the star should be an instant indication that this film was never meant for theatrical release. Despite having dozens of credits to his name, as an actor, he is less than memorable.

Perhaps one of the most amusing characters in the movie is El Chupacabra, a Latin inspired characterization of a plane voiced by actor Carlos Alazraqui (again, who?). The actor’s voice is strongly reminiscent of Antonio Banderas’ yet unlike the better actor who would have stolen the movie from his co-stars, instead we’re left with a sour taste as the B-lister hopelessly tries to use his charm to pick up his flighty female costars to no avail.

Perhaps the most inspired casting was having Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards, who previously starred together in the uber-flyboy picture Top Gun, voice a pair of bungling foils for Dusty. Crash and burn indeed.

It’s interesting to note that the studio is already working on a sequel for release next year. If Pixar were involved, this could have been an instant classic. Instead, it’s consigned to mere mediocrity in the expanded film world of animation.

I give Planes 2-1/2 out of 5 stars.

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