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Article by Teddy Durgin

"Planes" Never Takes Off

Disney's "Planes" is one of the blandest, paint-by-numbers animated films to hit screens in some time. First of all, it's set in the "Cars" universe, which was already tired and played-out by the second film in that series. Two, it features cardboard, one-dimensional characters who are plugged into the tired-est of tired racing plots stretched out over nearly the entire length of the film. And three, it's August. The film feels like a cartoon non-event after "Monsters University," "Despicable Me 2" and "Turbo." Yeah, it's all here, folks. Underdog character who dreams of being more? Check. A scheming, egotistical villain masquerading as a champion? Check. A big race that will come down to the final leg? Check. Jokey side characters with one personality trait each who exist only to be made into junky, plastic toys destined for landfills serviced by post-apocalyptic Wall-E droids one day? Check, check, check. Now, yes. I know. I gave a very positive review just a couple of weeks back to "Turbo," a flick in which an underdog hero runs afoul of a scheming, egotistical champ on the eve of a big race. The difference is style and writing. "Turbo" was clever and endearing throughout, with great characters, a fully detailed world just off-center of our own, and a much more daring vibe. In "Planes," the cliches just pile up, and there is little attempt made to deviate from formula. So much so that my mind couldn't help but wander almost the entire time I was watching it. And you wanna know what the main thought was that kept the ol' brain cells firing? It was a question, really. Ahem... WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THE HUMANS IN THIS WORLD?! These "Cars" flicks are startin' to seriously creep me out. They are clearly set on Earth... OUR Earth! How do I know it's our Earth? Because the action keeps taking place in actual real-world settings, including Nebraska, New York City, Germany and the Himalayas. Mention is made of "Old Yeller." The Cars and Planes still claim our nationalities and fly our flags before them. And never once is there any hint that a human civilization once stood. There aren't even any animals in the flick. What good is a Cars' world without roadkill?! So, I have to ask - is this some "Terminator"-like future in which humanity has been eradicated by sentient machines... in this case, dull, wise-cracking motor vehicles and aircraft? How did they take us out so cleanly and completely... without nukes? The countrysides are pristine. The cities still stand. How did it happen?! How did human dystopia get replaced by a machine utopia? How did the cars and planes and boats first start thinking and talking? It's our Earth! We're home! We've been home all of the time! You maniacs! You finally did it! You blew it up! You- Ahem. "Planes" is not a total loss. The story moves at a decent enough pace so as not to bore the under-8s. And a couple of the animation sequences are quite stunning, such as the initial start of the race when all of the planes launch and zoom by the camera (it's kind of the film's fleet-jumping-to-hyperspace moment a la "Return of the Jedi"). And being a child of the '80s, I couldn't help but grin when I heard the voices of Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards as fighter jets who help the main character, Dusty (voice of Dane Cook), at a key moment in the film. Iceman and Goose... oh, yeah! Too bad there weren't more delights like that throughout. "Planes" does feel the need for speed. But so did I afterward - to the theater lobby to get the heck out of the cinema and back to my life.

"Planes" is rated PG for mild action and some rude humor.


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