I honestly don’t know what I was thinking when choosing this film. I avoided this for so long, knowing that anything that would spin off of Cars…is just asking for disaster. I thought it was about time to put this film to rest and what better way than to forget it amongst a marathon! So here is the 2013 Disney spin-off of Pixar’s marketing franchise, the film many wish to forget as the moment Disney just threw everything to the wind and gave up any shred of artistic creditability, the one film that I have been dreading whenever I think about a Disney marathon, this is Planes…starring Dane Cook. I mean really?! Dane Cook is not a bad guy, but he just is not right for this role. I’m just, I’m just going to dive in.
Planes follows the exploits of crop-duster, Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) as he tries to defy what he was manufactured for in order to become a racer. We meet an eclectic group of racers from around the world that are stereotypes of their given region from time to time…much like El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui). The first thirty minutes are used to set up the race of the film, then ultimately sideline most of the characters from those first thirty for an entire new cast which they need to set up and establish new character identities and motivations. They don’t, but that narrative call would have shot a lot people in the foot particularly because characters from the first thirty minutes lacked plausible motivation besides random character motivations. It’s so thin on characterization that I often ask myself why some of the characters exist. Why is Dusty and Chug (Brad Garrett) friends? They are a car and a plane, yet somehow they are merely interacting with no background as to why either care about each other. The mechanic Dottie (Teri Hatcher) looks like an interesting character except they only establish her as the hard nosed mechanic. Leadbottom, voiced by Cedric the Entertainer…is there I guess?
Planes believes that if it is flashy enough, that it can make it by with very shallow storytelling just because it is a children’s film. A film like this which is all about the paycheck should never get a pass. This story is so bland and lifeless that it is devoid of not only the vibrancy of Disney, but none of the memorability of some of the worst films. Disney sequels are better than this film, as at least some attempted to give a story. Planes gives you marketability, and an attempt to cash in on a franchise that somehow worked pushing the luck of something already pushing its own luck with Cars 2. Yet Planes is nothing compared to even Cars, at least Cars has memorable characters at the very least…even if some of them can get on your nerves. I wanted to feel something, but instead the entire film felt merely soulless with a lack of creativity.
As far as mindless entertainment goes, Planes is one of the worst attempts at a cash grab I have ever seen from Disney. There is money poured into this film, and it doesn’t show at all. There is the same angles of shots each time a plane flies, there is very little variation and is done as more a sense of “we need to pick an angle” rather than any effort put into them. Some shots look oddly familiar to shots seen not too long before it. They even take very scenic locations like the Taj Mahal, yet squander its potential by being something we can see in a documentary rather than taking in the breathtaking scenery. This travelling around the world type of race has been done before and better, yet the stereotypes and cardboard cut-out characters certainly bring to question who thought this would be alright? These days children should be treated with more respect than something like this! There are many modern day Disney films even that challenge kids and actually have somewhat well told stories that have complex characters who don’t sound like a racially insensitive stereotype. I went over how Moana was inviting when you see the beauty of the culture being brought to life, yet Planes barely scratches the surface of diversity and interesting characters worth investing in.
It thinks it’s smart for its references but they are just veiled attempts that only prove to agitate, as they are very basic references and just shoddily placed in like a mention of Montezuma’s revenge with regards to oil instead of water. I will never forget the attempt at making Old Yeller a joke. It decides to even add in a war scene into the film to make us sympathize with a character and it comes out of left field crashing the tone of the film. These are just some of the notes I jotted down when watching the film in regards to it:
What is with that dogfight sequence? Why do we need this explored? Why do we need this poor excuse for tension between two characters and one doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the race only showing up in the beginning. This movie decides to shove in things that don’t mesh well with each other.
I will be honest, when people say that Planes is merely a children’s film only aimed for children that is giving this soulless wreck some pull. I respect everyone involved in this production…so why do I hate this film so much? It feels like they lost something with this film, they succumbed to merely obtaining a paycheck. It really is sad since Disney had been pulling out good to great films in recent history. Planes lacks the ability to feel like it’s trying to be intelligently made. I mean there are so many better Disney films that do the exact same morals but better! Look at about anything from the Disney library and you can find a good children’s film that tackles good subjects without desperately trying to sell merchandise.
I try my hardest to always see the greener side of even the worst of films, but Planes hurts especially since I am such a big Disney fan. There are just some films I can’t give a pass, and Planes makes that short list. What were your thoughts on Planes? Do you think I’m being too harsh on it? Leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself a great day!