Even though ‘Planes’ has the same style and animation as Pixar’s ‘Cars‘ and claims to take place in the same world, the Pixar name doesn’t appear anywhere on-screen in it. This little animated film was produced by DisneyToon Studios (Disney’s direct-to-video division), but the powers-that-be decided that they could make more money in toy sales if the movie got a theatrical run first. That seems to be the only driving force in this sub-par kid’s flick. I expect a decent box office gross, but its blandness might hurt its lasting appeal when it’s actually released on home video, like it was originally supposed to be all along.
Almost everything in ‘Planes’ is ripped off from ‘Cars’, from the characters to the colors and the locations. The movie starts out in a small rural town very similar to Radiator Springs. A cropduster named Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) wants to enter an annual race against the fastest planes in the world. An elderly, crabby war plane named Skipper (Stacy Keach) teaches Dusty how to fly with the help of Dottie (Teri Hatcher), a mechanic forklift, and Dusty’s simple-minded fuel truck Chug (Brad Garrett). Sounds a little too familiar, huh?
Due to a technicality, Dusty is accepted into the big race and begins his worldwide trek to the finish line. He’s opposed by some bad planes who would rather see him crash and burn than finish the race. However, he also meets some other nice racers along the way that help him conquer his biggest fear. You guessed it – Dusty the plane is afraid of heights.
Director Klay Hall is primarily known for many episodes of ‘King of the Hill’. He does the best he can with the script he’s given. The characters don’t have a lot of depth and story points are predictable. Voice acting is sub-par as well, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sinbad and Carlos Alazraqui giving the better of the vocal performances. The movie just lacks the Pixar flair for good storytelling. Sure, it has some aviation references and some cute moments here and there, but overall, ‘Planes’ is just for little kids and is a barely-disguised attempt to get you to buy toys.