Aug. 08--PG (some mild action, rude humor); 92 min.
There are plenty of examples of successful spin-offs of popular films. Disney's Planes is not one of them.
Originally conceived as a direct-to-DVD release and produced by DisneyToon Studios, the Cars-inspired film got bumped up to 3-D, wide-theatrical release status and is yet another example of Hollywood adding 3-D technology to a film that didn't need it.
The film introduces us to Dusty Crophopper (voiced by comedian-actor Dane Cook), who is tired of his monotonous job of spreading stinky Vitaminamulch across the same stretch of Midwest fields every day. He dreams of being a high-flying racer a la Lightning McQueen but in the air. He's got a couple issues to overcome, however, he's not built for speed and is afraid of heights. This doesn't stop him from training for a prestigious around-the-world competition with help from friends Dottie (Teri Hatcher), Chug (Brad Garrett) and mentor Skipper (Stacy Keach).
Planes does have some of the spectacular scenery and rural aesthetics of Cars, and while the film mimics its predecessor in plot line, it doesn't come close to recreating the heart-filled tale. Sure, there are moments of levity such as the nicely crafted romance between race competitors French-Canadian Rochelle (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Mexico's charming "El Chupacabra" (Carlos Alazraqui). But these moments are few and far between.
Also, there are some disturbing by cultural stereotypes. As Dusty gains worldwide fame, the race announcer mentions that he's getting a huge following especially with the "working class" then shows fans listening on a boom box in an urban street scene, a Japanese crowd in a Hibachi restaurant and an Irish gathering in a pub.
In the end, Planes gave me no reason to think that the filmmakers were reaching for new heights.
-- Maricar Estrella
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