I must admit that I was one of those people who wasn’t too excited about Disney’s Cars spinoff, Planes. It seemed like a blatent attempt to capitalize and expand the Cars franchise (then again, I guess there’s nothing really wrong with that).
That being said, I went into this test screening with pretty low expectations. I wasn’t expecting to like it at all, but whaddya know? I actually thought it was a pretty decent film.
Now, I’m going to do my best to not spoil the plot for anyone, but I will be talking about the film and its characters (which have all just been released) so if you don’t want to know anything about the characters, general plot, settings, etc., then I suggest you skip this read. For those of you continuing on, this post will be less structured and more stream of consciousness.
Like I said before, the film was actually pretty decent. When I filled out my comment card, I rated the film “Good” on a scale from “Bad” to “Excellent.” My other two friends rated it “Very Good” or equivalent to 4 stars (I would say on a star scale, for me, it’s a 3.5).
If I could simply describe the film, I would say that it is 1/4th Cars and 3/4 Cars 2…with planes (of course)! Although unlike Lightning McQueen who already is a world-famous racing champion, our hero–Dusty–is a crop dusting plane who dreams of becoming a racer. That’s basically the metaphorical equivalent of saying a snail who dreams of becoming the next Indy 500 champion (wait a second…that plot sounds rather familiar). I imagine that as the writers at Disney Toon Studios were coming up with a plot for this, someone said, “What’s the most pathetic plane out there? I know…a crop duster!” And from there, a star was born.
I did, however, have a problem with the pacing at the beginning. We are thrown into the film (with a blaringly loud, rock-anthem score. Nice touch.), introduced to a whirlwind of characters, and then thrust from that story to the main plot line that continues through the end of the film. I wish the film was a bit slower at the beginning, so that I had more time to absorb Dusty’s home, job, life, and feelings so I could better relate to him.
Planes is presumably set in the same universe as Cars, even though none of the Cars characters make cameos (well, technically there is one). But that doesn’t stop Disney from trying to recreate the success of the original Cars ensemble. While I joke that Planes is basically Cars…with planes, the resemblance of some of Planes‘ characters to those of Cars is a bit uncanny: there’s the young racer (Dusty), the old, retired sourpuss (Skipper), the funny sidekick (Chug, who actually more mellow than Mater), the girl (Dottie), and the bully champion racer (Ripslinger). The good thing about these characters is that they aren’t exact replicas of their Cars counterparts, but rather they each have their own unique personalities and humor.
One character that stole the show was the Mexican racer El Chupacabra. He is quirky and fun. The other international racers are interesting as well, with Rochelle–the French Canadian racer–and Ishani–the Indian racer–being other standouts.
Personally, I loved Sinbad’s character Roper. Everything he said was just hilarious and everyone in the audience laughed when he came on screen. Speaking of the humor, it was great. No potty humor (unless you count making fun of how crop dusting fumes smell), which is always a classy touch. There were a lot of plane, flying and aviation jokes and puns–again, they were appropriate and very hilarious. I even appreciated the more “mature” humor for the adults; I don’t mean mature as in raunchy, but mature in a The Simpsons sort of way–you just have to have lived a few extra years to get them.
Going into the movie, I jokingly said to my friend, “I bet this is a musical.” And guess what? We were serenaded with two songs! Both are brief and one is more effective than the other. The first song, while I guess somewhat appropriate for the setting, just leaves you scratching your head. Then again, I kind of liked it. Also, the lyrics were a bit hard to understand, which took away from some of its fun. The second song, on the other hand, works well and actually furthers the plot in a satisfying way.
Planes is your typical rookie-takes-on-the-big-boys-to-compete-for-the-gold film. On the way out of the theatre, I was talking with my friends about the movie and we all agreed that Planes might have been more intriguing if it weren’t another film about racing (making it seem as if racing is the only important thing in this Cars-Planes universe). It would have been interesting to see a film about fighter pilots (who make appearances in this film) or stunt planes. But alas, racing has been a big theme in animation recently (see: Cars, Cars 2, Wreck-It Ralph, and Turbo for more information) and we can’t seem to get away from it.
Really, there wasn’t that much wrong with the plot of Planes…except the fact that I was constantly comparing it to Cars. If Cars didn’t exist, then I would say Planes is a great film; but the mere existence of Cars and its sequel makes Planes seem slightly less fresh and more “we’ve seen this before.” However, I still enjoyed the film and was invested in the story the entire time. Disney did the aviation genre justice and introduced some unique angles to how a plane can get out of some sticky situations. There were some very emotional parts, making me realize that I had become invested in these characters. While the ending was a bit predictable, there was an interesting side story that came back into play to tie everything together.
One of the last lines of the audience survey said, “Would you want to see a Planes sequel?” Apparently, Disney already has that on their radar. Based on what I saw, I’m not entirely sure if I’d want to see a sequel. However, I have to remember that this was the test screening with still five months for Disney to make tweaks and improve the film. So, ask me again in August after I see the final product.
I can’t say with full conviction that I think Planes will do well in the box office. Mainly because August tends to not produce many blockbusters. However, I can assure you that every little boy under the age of 6 will become enamored with Planes. They are not only going to want to own the movie, but also will want to watch it over and over again until the disc breaks.
Planes (and its newly formed franchise) will be a runaway hit in the long run because it really was just a lot of good-humored fun.