Mania Review: Planes -

Mania Grade: D

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  • Starring the Voices of: Dane Cook, Teri Hatcher, Brad Garrett, Stacy Keach, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese and Cedric the Entertainer
  • Written by: Jeffrey M. Howard
  • Directed by: Klay Hall
  • Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Planes

Crash and burn.

By Rob Vaux     August 09, 2013

Telling sign: Pixar’s logo doesn’t appear on Planes. Disney has no interest in tarnishing that impeccable standard with piffle like this, despite the fact that it comes “from the world of Cars.” The claim is technically true, but pushing it, even for one of the much-maligned low points of the Pixar canon. If nothing else, Planes demonstrates just how relative a low point can be. Even the worst Pixar effort to date operates several levels above this direct-to-video disaster.

And actually, it would probably do much better if it were direct-to-video, because then at least we could accept its low-rent status as par for the course. Everything about it – story, characters, graphics, images – arises from a lazy cash grab, dependent upon an undemanding audience of toddlers to even get off the ground. Said audience was well-represented in the screening I attended, and while none of them looked bored or restless, they left the screening with a remarkable lack of excitement.

It’s hard to blame them. Planes does nothing with its already desperate premise, taking us to the skies above Cars-land for reasons we can’t fathom. Since this is a Disney joint (or at least a DisneyToons joint, the low-rent corner of The Mouse’s neighborhood), we start with a misunderstood dreamer: crop-dusting underdog Dusty (voice by Dane Cook) who yearns to enter an around-the-world flying race. Nobody thinks he can do it, but he’s got pluck and gumption, along with a screenwriter who wanted to turn in the draft before happy hour started at the Trader Vic’s. So he ends up in the race, braving the disdain of his fellow pilots and the crushing wall of clichés in his way to somehow realize his life’s goal.

 No overwrought contrivance is left unturned of course, but Planes goes beyond the merely perfunctory into some kind of mystic ideal of laziness. Even the most threadbare underdog story can work if you invest some thought and creativity into its development. (Monsters University being a good case in point.) This one can’t even come up with a good reason why Dusty manages to persevere: only that he really, really wants to. Not because he finds some clever way of exploiting his strengths or discovers some hidden talent he never knew he possessed, but because the film says so. It’s like telling the story of a paralyzed man who wants to win the Boston Marathon, then goes off and does it without ever addressing the fact that he can’t move his legs. Even for a babysitter movie, that’s pushing it.

The imagery does little better, though director Klay Hall is savvy enough to disguise the worst of it. The “beautiful” landscapes display a distressing lack of beauty, and are doled out with miserly reluctance throughout the film’s running time. This causes big problems in a globe-trotting movie, as each stage of the race dissolves beneath dreary hand-waving montages. There’s no dramatic build-up, and no sense of progression towards a climax of any kind. It doesn’t end so much as stop, and since we all know how it’s going to end anyway, we’re left with the impression of a vast empty space in the wake of an actual story.

The low budget is further reflected in the character models. You’ll notice an awful lot of forklifts in this movie, including quite a few in positions that never call for one. Why? Because they couldn’t afford any other models, and so just slap a fresh skin on the existing ones in the hopes that we won’t notice. Add to that a pathetic gaggle of ethnic stereotypes that represent Dusty’s fellow competitors, and you have a product that redefines the term “phoning it in.”

Ostensibly, we’re supposed to forgive that because it’s just for kids. But they can do better and so can Disney. They have no shortage of merchandizing opportunities – the real justification for an effort like this – and a studio (Pixar) that maintains a reputation for high quality even with its lesser efforts. Planes treats that reputation like a used diaper, sacrificing a unimpeachable gold standard with a casual contempt that defies belief. Even worse: there’s a sequel planned for next year, slapped together and rushed out the same way this one was. Hiding the logo can’t begin to make up for the cognitive disconnect here. The utter worthlessness onscreen becomes all the more galling because we can see the heights from which it started... heights that have never felt so remote and distant as they do after sitting through this waste. 


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fatpantz 8/9/2013 1:09:53 AM

I think when the leads are being done by Dane Cook and Teri Hatcher, that its quite obvious this is nothing more than a quick cash grab from the kiddies on summer break

ElBaz13 8/9/2013 6:26:24 AM

Still boggles my mind how Disney gives this crap a theatrical release yet the very underrated Tinkerbell direct to video movies don't.


iceknight52 8/9/2013 7:01:48 AM

My daughters and I will be skipping this. Besides, they are more pumped for Thor and The Hobbit...yup, I'm raising them right.

ElBaz13 8/9/2013 7:24:27 AM

LOL! Me too iceknight.

I showed my girls, aged 10 and 8, the preview of Thor 2 and they were really pumped for that. In fact, even my better half loves Hiddelston. Yup..sure she finds Hemsworth hot but she really loves Hiddelston as an actor. So family of four outing awaits us in November!

As for Planes. yuck. My girls had no interest in Cars. This one even less.


iceknight52 8/9/2013 7:43:25 AM

Yup, Mrs. Iceknight is a huge Hemsworth fan so there will be no needing to convince her of the show as long as she is guaranteed a shot or two without his shirt on. Funny how I can't use the same logic around Jane or Black Widow. Oh well, my daughters are 9 and 7 so it appears we are all doing something right. If nothing else, they'll at least be able to hold their own on these forums in a few years. ;)

Davewriter 8/9/2013 8:48:07 AM

And I am sure that the suits at Disney will still be shocked and horrified when this underperforms.  They will "forced" to writeoff another $100 mill (probably due to the tons of bad ads being run) and use it as one more reason why directors / producers should NOT have final cut rights.

Let's leave all the creative stuff to the suits who know better.


blankczech 8/9/2013 10:12:14 AM

 Okay so 30 and 40 something folks think this stinks,,,that's fine as long as it keeps 5 year olds glued to the TV and out of trouble.

Was going to skip this thread until I read comments by iceknight52 and ElBaz13 who helped make a point I've been trying to convey for some time.  

Often read comments on Mania that Marvel movies are great based on their box office performance.  I've argued that while they are good wholesome mildly violent, non-sexual movies there's nothing particularly great about them other than the fact that the whole family can have a rousing good time in the movie theatre for a couple of hours watching the good guys vanquish evil.

The fact that ElBaz13 and iceknight52 plan to see Thor 2 with their wives and little daughters illustrates my point.   Marvel's block busters are family movies.  Marvel wants everybody to come see them and then go out and buy the action figures, toys, books, printed t-shirts etc. associated with the movie.

It makes me laugh when I read Nerds discussing the next Avengers movie and theorizing about all this cool stuff they think might happen in the flick.  No it's not.  Marvel has to keep things simple to entertain casual fans who never read comics, wives, and the little kiddies otherwise the movie won't make a third of a billion dollars.

mlaforce 8/9/2013 11:09:10 AM

The advertising for this and I mean the commercial trailers are very underwhelming, it fails to even have the slightest bit of magic that pixar and disney movies tend to have and comes off as a cheap cars movies but with planes...

I also have allot of young kids in my family and not once have I heard, wow mom can we go and watch that, unlike most animated movies put out these days...Kids are allot smarter and savy and know what they like these days and disney thinks it's going to fool them, into begging us to take them to this movie, well disney you have not fooled anyone one of the kids in my family...

axia777 8/9/2013 1:49:48 PM

And the decline of Pixar begins......  :(

ElBaz13 8/9/2013 2:11:53 PM


This isn't Pixar. They refused to do it so Disney Toon Studios took it upon themselves to do it. I guess they want the Cars franchise to continue as even though they are sub par movies, they are merchandise cash cows. Frankly, a straight to DVD would have been sufficient.


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