Planes: Flat Animation Up in the Air

The best thing about “Planes” is not its story or visual style, which are below mediocre, but the gallery of colorful voices, lent by actors who are not readily associated with the genre.

Initially, “Planes” was meant to be a direct-to-DVD title, due to its lack of interesting story and buoyant tone, two attributes associated with the Pixar type of animation.

A high-concept feature, “Planes” is essentially “Cars” in the air, and more like the safe and stiff “Cars 2” than the first picture.
Is the studio running out of good ideas? It’s likely to be dismissed by most critics as one of the weakest entries in an otherwise distinguished line of movies.

Nonetheless, despite serious dramatic weaknesses, “Planes” should generate decent, if not boffo box-office. It’s after all August, and the kids are still off from school, plus the last animation, “Turbo,” did not fulfill artistic and/or commercial expectations.

There are striking similarities between the slender plot of “Planes”and that of the awful and uncommercial “Turbo” and the entertaining and accessible “Despicable Me.”
Based on a concept by executive producer John Lasseter and directed by Klay Hall (“King of the Hill”), the sporadically engaging tale is further marred by technical lingo that children will find to understand

As written by Jeffrey M. Howard (Secret of the Wings), the tale is based on few ideas and charcaters that are pale imitations of other, familiar ones. The gruff Skipper is a winged take on gruff Doc Hudson. Dusty’s green nemesis Ripslinger is a knock-off of

Set in the American Midwest Planes concerns the high-flying ambitions of Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook), a crop duster who feels the need for speed. (Sound familiar?)

He is taken under the tutelage of a reclusive and eccentric mentor Skipper (Stacy Keach), a Navy Corsair who once commanded the celebrated Jolly Wrenches squadron until an incident removed him from combat. Dusty also receives training from a female named Dottie (Teri Hatcher), a spunky forklift.

Soon after training, Dusty goes up against Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith) in an air-racing event that takes him away from home and all over the globe.

Two stars of Tony Scott’s smash hit, Top Gun, Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer lend their voices to playing Echo and Bravo, while Brent Musburger reprises his Cars 2 role as sportscaster Brent Mustangburger. Julia Louis-Dreyfus brings some color to her role as a French-Canadian competitor named Rochelle, who’s being courted by the confident El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui).

McQueen’s nemesis Chick Hicks. The dimwitted fuel truck Chug (Brad Garrett) recalls dimwitted tow-truck Materd.

By-the-book storytelling (it feels as if it was made by a committee), “Planes” boasts the same moral of most animations: You have to believe in yourself to overcome obstacles and achieve your dreams. In other words, the movie is too safe, predictable, lacking fun, wit and imagination to generate sustained interest for 92 minutes.

Children may be walking up and down the ailes during the screening, finding it hard to get involved, while parents may be looking at their watches
Voice cast:

Dane Cook, Stacy Keach. Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer


Released by Disneytoon Studios
Director: Klay Hall
Screenwriter: Jeffrey M. Howard
Executive producer: John Lasseter
Producer: Traci Balthazor-Flynn
Production designer: Ryan L. Carlson
Music: Mark Mancina
Editor: Jeremy Milton

MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 92 minutes.