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Planes (2013)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/19/2013

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/28/2013

If you've ever watched one of the behind-the-scenes segments on Pixar, then you probably know that it looks like a great place to work. Actually, as a naturally bitter person, I kind of hate to see the employees having infinite casual days, riding scooters through the halls, and working beautiful offices. But, beyond that, there's an even better reason to work at Pixar -- at this point, they can truly do whatever they want to do. Along with their annual feature-film release, Pixar had now began delving into other projects. Planes was meant to be a simple spin-off from Cars, but it grew into much more than that.

Planes actually takes place in the same universe as Cars, but it focuses more on the skies. Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) is a crop-dusting plane who is tired of flying back and forth at low-altitude. He dreams of being a racing plane and entering the Wings Across the World Race. His friend Chug (voiced by Brad Garrett), a fuel truck, encourages Dusty and helps him practice. Dottie (voiced by Teri Hatcher), the local mechanic, thinks that Dusty is crazy. When Dusty learns that a qualifying event for the big race is being held, he enters, and miraculously, gets in. Skipper (voiced by Stacy Keach), a World War II-era fighter plane, offers to help Dusty train. However, once Dusty starts the race, he realizes that he's up against professional racers and he will have to really dig deep in order to succeed.

When it was first announced, Planes was going to be a direct-to-vide project. But, as work progressed, it was then decided that it would not only be released in theaters, but in 3D as well. The film hit theaters this past summer, just a few months after the release of Pixar's Monsters University, and grossed around $90 million. It's interesting to note that Toy Story 2 followed the same path (originally meant to be direct-to-video, but went to theaters), but Planes is no Toy Story 2.

The main problem with Planes is simple. By that I don't mean that it's easily spotted, I mean that the movie is too simple. Whereas Cars was a riches-to-rags-to-riches story, complete with a come-uppance for the main character, Planes is simply a very basic rags-to-riches and fish-out-of-water tale. Much like the recently released Turbo, we have someone entering a race who has no business being there, and thus must prove themselves. Dusty meets a group of international characters -- El Chupacabra (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui), Bulldog (voiced by John Cleese), and Ishani (voiced by Priyanka Chopra) -- all of whom have very stereotypical traits. And, of course, there's a bully/villain, Ripslinger (voiced by Roger Craig Smith), who is initially cordial to Dusty, but then begins to scheme against the little plane once he sees his talent. The plot is very straightforward and there are very few surprises here. (Although, I must admit that some moments of peril in the third act caught me off-guard.)

So, it's very fair and accurate to call Planes formulaic. But, let's remember that this is a Pixar project and that there are some very talented and creative people there. What does that mean? That means that there are some moments in the middle of Planes where things get weird and thus interesting. El Chupacabra's attempt to serenade another plane will perplex children, but adults will find it entertaining. Also, Dusty meets a unique car in a British pub. The jokes here from the gamut from corny to clever, and the inclusion of Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards as the voices of fighter jets is a nice touch. Speaking of voice work, Dane Cook is an interesting choice as the lead of a family film, and while he does a good job, it truly feels like he's holding back, and thus robs Dusty of some personality. The animation isn't the best that Pixar has ever done, but it is nicely detailed and there is a great use of color. Although, the character design could have used some work, as Dusty's transformation during the film renders him looking about the same as he did at the beginning.

It seems weird to think that a company as big as Pixar would have little projects, but that's exactly what Planes is, and when viewed in this frame-of-mind, it's a fun movie. It won't wow you with animation like the finale of Monsters, Inc. or knock you over with emotion like the finale of Toy Story 3. No, it's simply a solid, innocuous animated film with a cute story to tell. You may watch it once and forget about it, but you'll enjoy your time with Planes.

Planes soars overhead on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The image shows off a great clarity which provides nice detail and good depth. The Disc carries DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get a good mix here which offers impressive stereo and surround sound effects. As one would imagine, there are constant sounds of planes whizzing by and these effects move smoothly from side-to-side and from front-to-back. The surround effects are nicely detailed at times. The subwoofer joins the action, providing solid, but not overwhelming bass. The set also includes a Blu-ray 3D where we find the film letterboxed at 1.78:1 and offering an MVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20/10 Mbps. Again, the image is sharp and clear, but the 3D effects aren't very impressive. Some shots have depth, and there are some nice moments where objects in the foreground are very prominent and separate from the background, but, for the most part, most of the film doesn't look much different from the 2D version. This makes me think that the movie was done in 3D as an afterthought. I really can't recommend this over the 2D version.

The Planes Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. "Exclusive Musical Scene: Franz's Song" (3 minutes) has Director Klay Hall and Producer Traci Balthazor introducing a deleted scene which was cut from the film, but completed for this presentation. "Klay's Flight Plan" (16 minutes) is a making-of featurette which follows the creation of the film, while also profiling Director Hall and his love for planes. (We see Hall showing his sons some antique planes.) The Disc contains two DELETED SCENES which run about eight minutes complete with introductions from Hall and Balthazor. These are presented in animatic form. "Meet the Racers" (6 minutes) offers brief bios on El Chu, Ripslinger, Dusty, and Ishani. "Top 10 Flyers" (6 minutes) is a look at ten real-life flying pioneers, hosted by Colin Cowherd (whom I don't like).

Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long