If you have not gone out and seen "Planes" yet, trust me you're not missing much. I am sure you will have the entire film figured out before you step into the theater to find your seat. The film is not going to pretend to be anything its not. On the other hand, it doesn't reinvigorate itself nor does it try to rise above the fray. Everything you expect to see and get out of "Planes" is exactly what you are going to see and get. With all of that said, is all of that good enough?
Dane Cook provides the voice for Dusty Crophopper. A crop dusting plane who has big dreams to be a racer plane. Dusty dreams so big that he even practices aerobatic maneuvers in his spare time. Not many of his friends believe in him, but one does. That loyal friends name is Chug (voiced by Brad Garret) and along with Dusty they try to qualify for the Wings Across the World race. This competition is very prestigious for planes, as it spans around the world. One of Dusty's biggest fears however, is heights. He must overcome his fears if he ever wants to be a true racer.
Even with a premise described above, there is still plenty of room for something provocative. There is room for something that will appeal to the masses. "Planes" didn't have to be just another children's movie, but I guess that is all Disney wanted to aspire to be. "Planes" doesn't teach us any new life lessons, nor does it make a dent in its genre. Basically all "Planes" adds up to is an animated children's movie that features of check-list of everything we come to expect from the genre.
A character wants to be something important and/or do something big but can't for some small personality trait. Check.
The character gets in touch with an unlikely ally for training? Check.
The character has a harmful trial and doesn't think he can go on? Check.
The character overcomes his personality trait? Check.
Look, I am not one to disapprove of familiarity, I just want it to mean something. Just because a film crew makes something unoriginal, doesn't mean that it won't stick. In modern times though, I always hope for a different take on something familiar, or at the very least, tell a good story well. "Planes" is pretty good overall, but its just more fluff from Disney. The studio doesn't want to shatter their reputation, or try things from a different angle. The studio enjoys being safe, and that's why when people think in their heads about modern Disney classics, each movie they think of are from the Pixar stable.
The voice work includes Teri Hatcher, Stacey Keach, Cedric The Entertainer, Val Kilmer, Julia Lewis-Dreyfus, Sinbad and John Cleese. This is a very good cast and most of them hit high character notes. I just wish they were involved in something that we haven't seen a millions of times before. The animation is also quite luminous, everything you expect Disney to produce animation-wise by now is on display, passing with flying colors (no pun intended). However, I have always stressed that I need more than just the pretty pictures. In this day and age, any movie has the ability to look beautiful, its what the crew does with that beauty that really counts.
I remember a time when all children's movies were still daring, still trying to engage the kids and adults in the crowd, how they reached toward different heights in each outing, that time of exploration seems to be finished. I don't know if family films will ever be the same again.
Final Grade: C+