I've said this before, but I can’t help but think back to the days when Pixar was wowing us with their animation and storylines. Sure, it’s only been a couple years and a big merger with Disney kind of shuffled some things around, but at some point I expected a film to impress me the way “Cars 2” did just two years ago. Yeah, it wasn’t as good as the first, but it still had that impeccable combination of incredible animation along with a feel-good story, the same traits found in the new “Planes” film, which is already out on DVD at a retail store near you.
Set in the world of “Cars,” the story here follows an unknown crop duster plan by the name of Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) who has dreams of becoming a racer. So, naturally after dusting the cornfields, he would switch gears and practice his maneuvers for speed. The goal was to tryout and race in the ‘Wings Across the World Race,’ but thus far was in no position to score high enough to make it. So, he enlisted the advice of an old war plane named Skipper (Voiced by Stacy Keach) in hopes of learning enough to make into the competition while conquering his fear of heights at the same time. Skipper, however, refuses leaving Dusty to qualify without any help. He does and winds up getting into the race due to a last second disqualification of the last qualifier ahead of him. Upon returning home, he is met by Skipper who after trying to talk Dusty out of racing, agrees to train him. After going through a rigorous training regiment, Dusty is finally deemed as ready and sets off for the race; one Dusty would realize quickly would not be easy but one that would change his life forever.
I don’t know about you, but I still get surprised when I look at the credits at who was playing who in a film like this. Call me naïve, but I really never look at the cast for one of these films. Sure, it can make difference as Ellen DeGeneres has proved voicing Dori in “Finding Nemo,” but typically it won’t make or break the film. Here, the lead voice was Dane Cook, who was in command of Dusty. I like Cook as a comedian, just have never seen or heard from him too much on the big screen. So, I had no clue what to expect, but he did fine voicing Dusty Crophopper in this story. Never tried to do too much with it, which is what you want. Lending a hand quite frequently though was Carlos Alazraqui, who voiced El Chupacabra. This guy was hilarious with this character and reminded you a lot of what Antonio Banderas’ did as Boots in the “Shrek” series. A few other notables were Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Rochelle, John Cleese as Bulldog, Priyanka Chopra as Ishani, Stacy Keach as Skipper and Sinbad as Roper. But, possibly the two ‘token’ members to this cast were Anthony Edwards as Echo and Val Kilmer as Bravo, playing two F18 Super Hornet’s. Call it a shameless plug for one of my favorite films, but I believe this is the first time these two guys have been together since they played Goose and Iceman in “Top Gun.”
I’m probably alone with this, but I think critics are grading anything Disney and Pixar come out with too severely. I know I have fallen victim to this myself, but that was before these two companies merged. Since then I take anything Pixar does at face value, same as I have done with Disney or even DreamWorks Animation. You have to, given how far animation has come in Hollywood and what these production companies are able to do nowadays. It all looks and moves better on the screen, which is why I never focus on the visuals for any one of these films, unless it’s poor. My focus is always around the story and characters, which to me makes or breaks a film like “Planes.” This was a sore spot in both “Brave” and “Monsters University” in my mind, which is why John Lasseter being around is so important. His ideas around the story usually do not fail when you look back at the quality of films he helped create (i.e. “Toy Story” and “Cars” series). This film was no different, as it had that same feel which made sense. Because for kids under the age of 10, it’s the perfect addition to the “Cars” world; one I know my kids can’t seem to get enough of, no matter how many times they watch the DVD’s.
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