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Planes (3D Blu-ray Review)

16 Nov, 2013 By: John Latchem

Street 11/19/13
Box Office $89.61 million
$29.99 DVD, $44.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 3D Blu-ray

Rated ‘PG’ for some mild action and rude humor.
Voices of Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, Priyanka Chopra, Carlos Alazraqui, Roger Craig Smith.

The “Cars” universe was never considered among the most sophisticated in the Pixar canon. It depicts a world where animals don’t exist, populated by living vehicles in a society presented almost entirely as references to the role their real-world analogs play in our own culture.

Planes was originally developed as a direct-to-video spinoff of the “Cars” franchise, and it feels like it. The film wasn’t produced by Pixar, though it was executive produced by “Cars” creator John Lasseter via his role as the head of Disney’s animation studios. A sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue, is already in the pipeline for next year.

The upgrade to a theatrical release likely paved the way for a few higher-profile voice actors, but the animation, though rich in detail, doesn’t feel as sharp as its Pixar cousins, and the 3D impact is minimal. The formulaic story doesn’t offer much interest to anyone but the younger demographic it’s primarily designed to entertain (and convince to beg their parents to buy the toy lines based on it).

The bare-bones plot involves a crop-duster named Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) who dreams of being a racing plane, and manages to qualify for a worldwide race featuring a variety of archetypal race-movie characters in plane form (headed by cocky returning champion Ripslinger, voiced by Roger Craig Smith). Take a guess who wins.

Dusty’s mentor is an old World War II plane named Skipper (Stacy Keach), and the notion of a vehicle equivalent to our conflicts is intriguing. Was there a “World of Cars” holocaust in which Mercedes and BMWs rounded up cars they didn’t like and scrapped them? Sometimes it’s better not to think too hard about it.

The movie lacks the rapid-fire sight gags usually seen in a Pixar flick, and the film’s most clever joke will likely be lost on most viewers — the fact that two fighter jets are voiced by Top Gun actors Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards.

The Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette that focuses a lot on director Klay Hall indulging his love of aviation by taking his kids to historic aircraft museums. Another featurette counts down history’s top 10 “flyers,” touting the efforts of the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, while ignoring pilots of the jet age such as Chuck Yeager or any of the astronauts.

Fans of the movie might get a kick out of a handful of vignettes profiling the main characters. There’s also a superfluous, fully animated musical number that was cut from the film, plus two other unfinished deleted sequences totaling about eight minutes.

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