First off, this is a Disney movie, not a Pixar one. Specifically, it’s the first DisneyToon Studios movie in eight and a half years not to go straight to DVD. Sadly, it’s still got that hand-me-down feel. A few years ago, when it looked like Disney and Pixar were going to split up, the House of Mouse made plans for a load of quick-fit sequels to the intellectual property they now owned (there is a parallel universe where Toy Story 3 was a cheap romp about Buzz Lightyear getting recalled to Taiwan). There’s a rift somewhere between that world and ours, and Planes just fell through it.
Spinning off from Pixar’s Cars series, Planes tells the story of young Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), a daydreaming cropduster who qualifies for the prestigious Wings Across the World air race. It was familiar stuff even before Cars 1 and 2, and the power of flight adds little to the formula. Presumably, this post-apocalyptic, Mad-Max-without-the-Gibson world WHERE PLANES DUST CROPS FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T EXIST raises no greater questions in the minds of the studio execs.
It is at least pretty to look at. The level of detail the artists get into the crowd scenes is stunning and reminds you how far computer-generated animation has come in less than 20 years (have you watched A Bug’s Life recently? It looks like a cutscene on the original PlayStation). But that really is the least you should be saying; if you’re looking at the landscape, it’s because the characters aren’t holding your attention.
Cars was already Pixar’s weakest property. Maybe that’s because, in the UK at least, nostalgia for the Mother Road doesn’t unify us in the same way Toy Story’s lament for childhood does. Kids – who, let’s be fair, are the target audience – love the films, but for them driving is speed, adventure and maturity, not traffic jams and road tax.
Presumably, kids will find the same fun in Planes, but that’s because they’ve never had to deal with RyanAir’s booking fees. There’s no connection with any deeper emotion than “flying looks fun”. It’s Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines with jokes (and the humans – seriously, what kind of post-Skynet world is this?) taken out.
Wait for Planes to hit TV-on-demand; that’s where it began before someone decided there was enough milk in the cash cow to slap it on the big screen. It’ll keep the kids quiet for an hour-and-a-half but it won’t grow with them in the way Pixar or Disney’s best will. Don’t, for God’s sake, spend any additional money on cinema tickets or DVDs; you’ll only be telling the people whose job it is to green-light the next WALL-E or Up that they can make as much money with far less effort. You’ll send them into a nosedive.
Planes is out on the 16th of August