Film Title: Planes
Director: Klay Hall
Starring: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Priyanka Chopra, Cedric the Entertainer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese
Running Time: 91 min
A certain class of small child will always want cartoon representations of vehicles and things that say “vroom” to adorn their duvets and curtains. Thus, Thomas the Tank Engine, stoked by sexist and classist derivations, continues to prosper and double thus, say hello to Planes, a spin-off from a sequel that nobody wanted.
Cars 1 and 2 may have been the weakest films to ever roll off the conveyer belt at Pixar, but ickle motor heads will always need lunchboxes. And so the appalling Lightning McQueen continues to grace the gender-stereotyped aisles of a toy emporium near you.
As bad as the Cars films were, they had the Pixar imprint and attendant technical know-how in their armoury. Planes, a flimsy-looking 3D animation, is seldom lovely to behold. It’s not an official Pixar product, although company bigwig John Lassiter continues to hang around as a producer. The characters are an unwelcome clatter of national and racial stereotypes: the English plane is voiced by John Cleese at his most toodle-pipping; the sleek French-Canadian is frosty; the Mexican high flyer is an overeager Latin lover.
These creations represent the very brightest and best in, what the tagline tells us, is “the world above Cars”. But can a plucky little cropduster ever compete with such world-class firepower?
Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), is an agricultural spreader with ideas above his station. Assisted by forklift mechanic Dot (Teri Hatcher), dim-witted sidekick Chug, and an ancient navy war plane (Stacy Keach), Dusty is an unlikely finalist in the Wings Across the World challenge.
The finished film is rarely appealing to look at and is certainly not of the standard we’ve come to associate with Pixar. But the product – and that’s all it is – turns out to be just fine and dandy for younger viewers.
The underdog storyline is simple and tots-appropriate. Good guys and bad guys are clearly delineated and rewarded or punished accordingly. There is none of the bloated posturing and moralising that marred the Cars films: slow down and smell the roses, it’s the journey not the destination, blah, blah, blah.
Best of all, the dreaded Mater is nowhere to be seen. Still, that throwaway, ecologically friendly line about corn fuel is fooling nobody. In the skies, as on tarmac, this remains the world’s most fossil-fuel-friendly franchise.