Disney’s Planes, a cousin in look and feel of Pixar’s Cars but without the intricate character-driven storytelling and genuinely heartfelt underlying mood, is yet another formulaic underdog story involving a race (the similarly underwhelming Dreamworks’ film Turbo likewise mined this same territory this past summer). While the animation is very appealing and the younger members of the family will likely overlook its predictable story development and by-the-numbers characters, Planes seems more like a made-for-home video effort than a feature film (which, rumor has it, was its original conception).
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/MVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 31 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copykeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 11/19/2013
Dusty (Dane Cook) may be a lowly cropduster, but he dreams of being a high-flying racer competing with the biggest and best in the field for the Wings Around the World cup. Though he has a big heart and lots of chutzpah, his chances of qualifying for the race seem miniscule with his minimal skills and fear of heights. Local World War II flying legend Skipper Riley (Stacy Keach) takes Dusty under his wing (pun intended) and offers some pointers that, miracle of miracles, allow him to squeak into contention for the race – a seven legged tour around the world stopping along the way in Iceland, Germany, India, Nepal, China, Hawaii, Mexico, and back to the start in New York. Three-time champion Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith) has nothing but disdain for the little guy, but along the way, Dusty manages to make friends and offer assistance to other competitors Bulldog (John Cleese), El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui), and even spark a little love interest with Ishani (Priyanka Chopra). So, it’s anyone’s race as the planes make their way around the planet.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
This anthropomorphic world that Cars first introduced to us and which Planes continues has by now completely lost its novelty, so the only thing that can insure a first-rate production is sharp writing and strong character development, but Jeffrey M. Howard’s screenplay has offered fairly standard stereotypes for characters (the puny, plucky underdog, the stuffy British competitor, the egotistical win-at-any-cost champion, the suavely sexual Latino) and a race that’s singularly lacking in thrills, excitement, or surprise. (Is it any great shock that Dusty quickly falls behind, slowly moves into contention only to be sabotaged and have to make a come-from-behind dash to the finish line?) Yes, the production team has made Dusty the proverbial good guy and good sport, helping his competitors even at his own expense and, of course, allows him later to be rewarded for his kindnesses: it’s a noble effort for the youngest viewers, but this kind of formulaic storytelling will quickly bore adults even with the occasional witty pun or funny piece of business that serves as a running gag.
Dane Cook lends innocence and vulnerability to the role of Dusty and makes him a most appealing character. Stacy Keach as the tough-love teacher Skipper with a secret in his past is also perfect casting for the part. Likewise, Brad Garrett as Dusty’s simple-minded pal Chug the gasoline truck is a most pleasing if completely familiar sidekick character (meant to be Plane’s version of Mater), and Carlos Alazraqui gets several showcase moments (including a musical sequence serenading his lady love) as the hot-oiled Latino superstar El Chupacabra. Roger Craig Smith is a very conventional villain (his two henchmen are voiced by Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards but not with any great distinction), and Teri Hatcher plays Dottie, the good-natured local mechanic who always keeps Dusty tuned up.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the MVC (for 3D)/AVC (for 2D) codec. The picture is wonderfully sharp and richly colorful making images that are always a pleasure to watch and never veering toward the overdone. Contrast has been dialed in to perfection. There is no banding, but there is a bit of aliasing to be seen in a shot where Dusty’s landing on a aircraft carrier causes some brief artifacting. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: 3.5/5
The use of 3D is rather disappointing here. With the possibilities of wings and propellers constantly jutting forward almost limitless, there are almost no instances of it (only one wing tip seemed to quickly pop out from the screen). Yes, the aerial views in 3D are rather awesome in expanse especially when planes rise up to great heights and then plunge downward into a vast space below them, but there are only so many times when that effect provides stimulation, and the animators haven’t delivered nearly enough variety in their artwork to deliver any other similarly effective scenes. Even the use of the characters and other objects on multiple planes (no pun intended this time) isn’t very inspired. There is, however, no bothersome crosstalk to interfere with the visuals.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix is a crackerjack one filled with a constant array of sweeping, panning effects as the planes whoosh across and around the soundfield. There is also very effective use of directionalized dialogue to expand impressively the use of character voices. Mark Mancina’s music likewise receives an excellent spread through the soundstage building in momentum as the end of the race approaches. The roaring engines of some of the bigger planes give the LFE channel some nice activity to keep it busy.
Audio Rating: 5/5
Frozen Promo Trailer (1:57, HD, 3D): the only bonus feature on the 3D disc.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
“Franz’s Song” (3:18, HD): a musical number for the Volkswagen character of Franz cut from the film presented in fully completed animation.
Klay’s Flight Plan (15:31, HD): director Klay Hall shows his two sons around the aviation museum, talks to them about their grandfather’s interest in aviation, and takes them for rides in planes. Also, he, producer Traci Balthazor-Flynn, and writer Jeff Howard discuss their inspirations for making the movie.
Deleted Scenes (8:10, HD): director Klay Hall and producer Traci Balthazor-Flynn introduce the two deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or in montage.
Meet the Racers (1:17, 1:17, 1:32, 1:32, HD) brief animated biographies of four racer characters: El Chupacabra, Ishani, Dusty, and Ripslinger.
Top Ten Flyers (5:53, HD): Colin Cowherd counts down the ten most famous names in aviation including the Wright Brothers and Howard Hughes.
Promo Trailers (HD): Frozen, Planes: Fire & Rescue, The Jungle Book.
DVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed
Planes will likely make a pleasant afternoon or evening's entertainment for the younger members of the family, but there isn’t much new or fresh here for older viewers. The 3D is uninspiring as well making this one of Disney’s lesser achievements of 2013.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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