Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Beware of critics gunning for Planes as if they were the Red Baron dive-bombing Snoopy. The aeronautical spin-off of Pixar's "Cars" franchise is carrying way too much unchecked baggage to be dismissed as yet another cartoon attraction in a summer already overrun with leafy warriors, collegiate monsters, high-octane snails, mumbling Minions and annoying Smurfs.
First, Disney—which owns the premier animation house that "Toy Story" built—had the audacity to put what was originally a straight-to-DVD release into theaters and pass it off as a "real" movie—and without the benefit of the kind of second-thought upgrades afforded to "Toy Story 2," a onetime direct-to-video project. Then a "Cars" logo was slapped on ads and posters, along with the tagline "From the world above Cars," perhaps causing some patrons to think "Planes" is a Pixar film instead a product of Disney's home-entertainment division. On top of that, they had the nerve to cram store shelves with beckoning toy replicas of the movie's cute flying machines, just in time to disrupt back-to-school shopping expeditions.
No one can fault Disney too much for seizing a money-making opportunity—especially once they realized they weren't going to make much "Hi-yo, Silver!" off of "The Lone Ranger." Instead, it all comes down to whether "Planes" will please its core audience of tots and their parents who want more of what "Cars" and its sequel (both probably the least-loved of Pixar's 14 features) gave them—a cleverly conceived human-less universe tweaked for vehicular inhabitants, zoom-y action stunts, hokey pun-filled humor and colorful characters. Judging on that scale, "Planes" modestly succeeds. Very modestly.
From the opening frames, adults will immediately notice a certain-stripped down sensibility, with the entrance of Dusty Crophopper (voiced with guy-ish gusto by Dane Cook), a Midwestern crop duster who dreams of competing in a race around the world against an eccentric flock of international competitors. It's 1965's "Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines" but minus the men. Although there are plenty of swell loop-de-loop visual thrills in the 3-D-enhanced airborne sequences, the backdrops are barely filled out and eye-catching details are lacking.