Planes Voices of Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett. Directed by Klay Hall. Rated PG. Opens Friday.
When Disney purchased Pixar in 2006, it was with the promise that it would respect the company’s artistic vision, characters and creative process, using the clout of a multibillion-dollar, multinational corporation to bring the fruits of that creativity to a greater audience (similar assurances were made with Disney’s subsequent purchases of Marvel and Lucasfilm). Since the Disney deal, Pixar has produced three sequels, with at least one more on the way, and now Disney has taken one of the company’s most successful franchises and generated its own second-rate spinoff.
Billed as coming from “the world of Cars,”Planes was not created by Pixar, although Pixar head honcho John Lasseter is an executive producer and contributed to the story. It’s actually a creation of Disney’s direct-to-video animation division that’s been misguidedly promoted to theatrical release, instead of remaining in obscurity where it belonged. The story of a cropduster named Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) who follows his dream of competing in an around-the-world airplane race is dull, lifeless and predictable, with a cast full of forgettable characters distinguished mostly by their exuberant embrace of ethnic stereotypes. Even at their worst, the Cars movies could create a vibrant, detailed world, but Planes is consistently flat, uninspired and boring (its focus on the mechanics of airspeed will likely make small children antsy). If Planes represents what Disney is doing with the Pixar properties, then Lasseter may need to stage an intervention before we end up with Boats.