Planes review

It seems like it’s been a fairly quiet summer for Disney on the animation front this year, with a bigger focus on their live-action films such as The Lone Ranger. But now Uncle Walt’s dream factory is opening the hanger door and letting Planes take off into the cinematic skies.

Planes is the story of Dusty Crophopper, a crop-dusting plane who dreams of being a racing plane, and competing in the prestigious Wings Around The World race. Despite the odds being against him, with the help of his friends – including retired air force plane Skipper – he reaches the competition, and tries to win the global race in the face of stiff competition from existing champion Ripslinger and other planes from all over the world in a continent-spanning adventure.

For fans of the Cars franchise, Planes will be an absolute riot. The humour and tone is very similar, and it exists within the same universe, with a certain subtle degree of crossover between the films. Visually, it looks as good as any other recent Disney release, with a wonderfully colourful world masterfully crafted to make the planes easily distinguishable, and the backdrops they fly through incredibly vivid.

The plot of Planes does not exactly reinvent the wheel. It follows a very formulaic structure, with little in the way of surprises. However, for this sort of film, and the audience it is for, this is not a particularly troublesome issue, as children will lap up the action. In addition, the voice acting is excellent, as you would expect, with a stellar cast bringing the story to life and imbuing the characters with a real sense of individual personality – which, in conjunction with the animation makes for a very fun, family film.

However, it’s not all clear skies and smooth flying. While Planes is mostly a very entertaining movie, it does feel a bit tired at moments. The idea of having another vehicle-based animated film from the Mouse House does seem somewhat redundant, and at times it feels like a cheap alternative to producing another instalment of the Cars franchise. While the voice cast do fantastically well with the material, they all seem like the pound shop alternative to the big star names that could have brought some extra gravitas to proceedings and made this feel like a "big" movie. This is a fairly minor gripe, but the sort of issue that makes the difference between a good film and a very good film.

Planes is a very fun family adventure with a significant upside. It will fill the gap for Disney in the summer season, and will undoubtedly make them an absolute fortune. However, it perhaps could have benefitted from being slightly more original in order to seem less like a filler movie and more of a highlight of their release calendar. Not a crash landing, but certainly not turbulence free.

Planes at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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