Directed by Klay Hall.
2013. Rated PG, 91 minutes.
Cedric the Entertainer
Roger Craig Smith
Dusty Crophopper (Cook) is just a crop duster. That doesn't stop his dreams of being racing plane. To fulfill his lifelong wish, he decides to try to qualify for the upcoming world famous Wings Across the World race. Against all odds, and due to some funny business by another racer, Dusty snags the last available spot. Even though he's severely outclassed by his competitors, and they let him know it, he is out not just to participate, but to win. There is one other teeny, tiny problem. One leg of the race involves flying over mountains and he is afraid of heights. Yup, he's a plane afraid of heights.
If you've heard anything about Planes, it's probably that it was made to capitalize on the popularity of the Cars franchise and is pretty much a knock-off. That much is true. Where most will probably disagree with me is that, in this case, the knock-off is better than the original. Full disclosure: I hate Cars. To me, it is an overly long, poorly paced, snooze fest. Planes is on par with Cars 2, which I also like better than Cars. I place this movie as a small step below Turbo, yet another movie following the same basic template. In that one, we sub in a snail.
Planes knows something that Cars didn't and uses that knowledge to its advantage. It fully understands that the racing is the draw. Where Cars back-logged all of the fun stuff to sit behind a way-too-lengthy setup, Planes gets us to the action rather quickly. All of the other elements you'd expect to be there are incorporated into the racing. We still get the wise old sage (Keach), a love interest (Chopra), an identity crisis for our hero, and a villain. The pace is so snappy, we notice that they are present, but don't have time to dwell on them, nitpick them, or worse, become bored by them. Instead, the time flies by, bad pun intended, and we have a fun time.
The drawback to all that speed is that our characters are stuck in neutral. They all stick to the expected arcs with almost no deviation from the norm. This robs most of them of their pizazz. This is where Turbo excels. In that movie, we get big personalities that follow similar tropes, but with much more charisma. Here, I felt like I could write the dialogue. Actually, I could probably replace it all with a catch-phrase or two for each character.
As things come to a close, we've seen a movie that's fun, but ultimately forgettable. It zips through our lives covering the same basic lessons so many other cartoons have trampled to death. Without doing anything especially good or bad, it leaves nary a trace after it's gone. The silver lining is that while it's on, it's an enjoyable little plane ride.
MY SCORE: 6/10