Planes is an entertaining movie almost in spite of itself. A spin-off from Cars made by Disneytoon Studios (and originally planned to go straight to DVD), you can feel the competing desires behind the movie coming off the screen, not all of which are about telling an entertaining story. The wish to keep the feel of Cars results in a plot that’s a mash-up between the two Pixar movies, complete with major characters that are almost carbon copies of Doc Hudson and Mater, as well as a protagonist who may not have Lightning McQueen’s initial arrogance but still has more than a dash of his attitude.
You can also feel the merchandising department asking for Planes to contain as many things they can sell as possible. That’s not surprising, as Cars is Disney’s most successful merchandising brand and their first to break the billion dollar mark on goods sold alone.
That would be too much to bear for most movies, and while there is undoubtedly the sense we’ve seen all this before, Planes is surprisingly fun.
The movie follows crop dusting plane Dusty Crophopper, who dreams of more than just spraying fields – he wants to race. He unexpectedly qualifies for a massive, global air race, although no one expects him to do very well. However once a few modifications are made, Dusty starts moving up the pack until he looks like a real contender. That doesn’t please arrogant and nasty champion Ripslinger, who can’t stand the idea of losing to a farm plane, and so sets out to destroy Dusty’s chances.
As you can see from that plot synopsis, we’re on very familiar territory, but Planes ambles along in a jolly enough fashion, adding in a bit of heart and the compulsory family film themes of believing in yourself and following your dreams.
One of the reasons Planes went from being a straight-to-DVD to cinema title was the possibility of selling the film’s 3D, as aircraft swooping all over the place is almost designed for that. Of course in the home most people will be getting a flat version (although it is out on Blu-ray 3D), and it’s one of the few times where it does feel like you’re slightly missing out in 2D. The animation itself may not be up to Pixar standards, but on Blu-ray it nevertheless looks pretty good, with a nice crisp picture that shows off the very nicely designed backgrounds and fun characters.
The only really important thing though is whether it’ll keep the kids entertained, especially if it turns up their Christmas stocking. The answer is that if you have a child who likes vehicles, they’ll probably like this a lot – although be prepared for them to ask for all manner of Planes toys afterwards.
The disc includes some okay extras, including some deleted scenes, such as a fully rendered musical sequence that was excised from the movie. You also get some short featurettes introducing some of the characters, along with the surprisingly entertaining ‘Klay’s Flight Plan’, which is about director Klay Hall and his family connections to aviation. Finally there’s a new Mickey Mouse short, ‘Croissant de Triomphe’, which many will find a little strange due to its stylised animation and the fact it’s in French, which many won’t associate with Mickey. It’s not a bad little toon though.
Overall Verdict: Although you can almost feel the film whispering ‘buy toys’ at you and they stuck a little too close to the Cars template in both plot and character terms, Planes is still surprisingly entertaining and often humorous movie.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac