Review: Planes

Poster for 2013 animated comedy film Planes

Genre: Animation
Certificate: U
UK Release Date: 16th August 2013
Runtime: 91 minutes
Director: Klay Hall
Writer: Jeffrey M Howard 
Starring: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Roger Craig Smith, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher
Synopsis: A plucky drop dusting plane must battle against the odds if he is to achieve his dream of becoming a champion air racer.




A shameless example of Disney cashing in on the Pixar brand, Planes is a lame film that exists only to sell merchandise. It’s a sad state of affairs, especially when considering that Disney is completely poisoning the quality reputation of a great animation studio just to sell a couple of lunchboxes.

Plucky farming plane Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) has always dreamt of being a racer and has been trained in secret by his fuel truck friend Chug (Brad Garrett). Despite his mechanic pal Dottie (Teri Hatcher) warning of the risks posed by speed, Dusty enlists an elderly war plane called Skipper (Stacy Keach) to prepare him for a major tournament.

Planes is nothing more than a grab for cash. It’s that simple. The plot seems to have been created using a Venn diagram of sports movie cliches and children’s movie cliches. Everything in the middle section went in. So Planes has the traditional underdog narrative, a wizened old mentor, an arrogant champion and an exotic love interest. It’s a true example of spreadsheet film making.

Comedian Dane Cook is unspeakably bland in the lead role, but that probably says more about the poor material than his performance. Teri Hatcher fares better; but only just. John Ratzenberger’s cameo gives the film a moment of Pixar magic that it doesn’t deserve and places a blot on the actor’s own, almost impeccable copybook.

Aside from the central characters, the world of Planes is inhabited by a series of crude ethnic stereotypes. There’s a brash, masked Mexican plane looking for love, a romantic French-Canadian plane, an exotically attractive Indian plane and a series of Chinese cars wearing paddy hats. John Cleese, as a posh Brit racer, provides the film’s only laugh. That’s right; there’s only one. And even that is based on a crude national stereotype. Planes is unamusing, uninteresting and borderline racist.

Disney intended this as another one of its direct-to-DVD spin-offs and that’s probably the route that it should’ve taken. But, in a summer where 3D animated movies that follow a specific formula have more or less ruled the roost, their decision makes financial sense, even it if it stinks artistically.

At the beginning of Planes, the BBFC certification states that the film contains “no material likely to offend or harm”. Based on the film that followed, it probably should have added that Planes also contains no material likely to amuse or entertain.


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