Movie Reviews

‘Planes’: Flies smoothly, but doesn’t soar

By Kevin HoMovies - 06 September 2013 12:00 AM | Updated 5:53 PM

‘Planes’: Flies smoothly, but doesn’t soar

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

If you took a quick first glance at this animated film and confused it momentarily for Pixar’s ‘Cars’ franchise, you’re not too far off the track.

Not only was ‘Planes’ conceptualised by ‘Cars’ director and Pixar head honcho John Lasseter, and not only do both films share the exact same animation style, the setting of ‘Planes’ takes place within the ‘Cars’ universe.

The ‘Cars’ franchise is already notorious for being Pixar’s worst. So you might think no one has high hopes for a film that is a blatant rehash of a bad idea.

Despite cynics' apprehensions, 'Planes' struggles admirably to prove its worth


Yet, the thing to note is that ‘Planes’ is not a Pixar film. It is essentially a Disney picture.

It also depicts an underdog story independent of the stories in the ‘Cars’ franchise. Viewed in this context, ‘Planes’ manages to beat the odds and fly above the dark clouds of mediocrity.

It tells the story of Dusty Crophopper, a cropduster plane who wishes to abandon his mundane life and join the big boys as a professional racer.

With the help of his friends Chug and Dottie, and the guidance of his mentor Skipper, Dusty embarks on his dream by qualifying for a race around the world. The bulk of the plot unfolds at this point, spinning a tale of faith, perseverance, and courage.

A race around the world puts Dusty's ambition to the ultimate test

Where underdog stories are concerned, ‘Planes’ is a shameless textbook effort. No spoilers here, but there is nothing even remotely novel about the film’s pacing or direction. Having said that, overcoming expectations amid peer scrutiny is a formula that always works even if it is cliche.

Though Dusty the plane is a terribly dull character, the entertaining quirks come from the other racers such as the hopelessly romantic El Chupacabra, the mystical beauty Ishani, and the uppity veteran Bulldog. And the show-stealer is decidedly Fliegenhosen, an aerocar with a bipolar disorder.

The alluring Ishani is voiced by Indian actress Priyanka Chopra

While it may have stolen an idea or two from ‘Cars’, the innovate animation style of turning vehicles into human-like characters is always fascinating to watch. From every twitch of a tail flap to every swish of a windscreen wiper, every minute physical detail helps to bring out the individual charm of every character.

For a show that seems to be aimed at children, the heavy usage of technical racing lingo such as horsepower, radial turns, torque, and g-forces is a nice touch that would make even the most mature of racing enthusiasts applaud with delight.   

But once again, it’s the young audience who would probably get the biggest kick out of this. ‘Planes’ very much flies within the safe zone, and comes out neither on top nor heavily scarred. For that, it floats quite comfortably with us.

‘Planes’ is now showing in cinemas