In non-20-something-year-old fashion, I kicked off this past weekend with an opening day screening of the Disney flick “Planes.”
I went in with low expectations, especially having only seen parts of “Cars,” the film from which “Planes” obtains its mechanical concept. And, I watch my fair share of children’s movies for someone my age and without kids, as I’m an aunt.
But after watching “Planes,” I promptly told my sister not to bother taking my niece and nephews (all under ten) to see the movie.
The story centers around the meek character of Dusty Crophopper, a crop-duster plane with dreams of becoming a high-flying champion racing aircraft. Problem is, he’s afraid of heights. As a crop-duster, he has flown low to the ground his whole life(?). He, in a twist of fate, earns a spot in the around-the-world racing competition alongside characters like El Chupacabra, a Mexican plane, and the movie's only identifiable villain Ripslinger, who ridicules Dusty for being a lowly (literally) crop-duster. Spoiler alert: Dusty’s biggest shortcoming eventually works to his advantage when he overcomes the story’s only obstacle.
“Planes,” which is a Disney—not a Pixar title—unabashedly employs stereotyping in its presentation of various ethnicities. Because the script is such a snooze-fest, the writers look for cheap laughs by racially typecasting the voice and phrasing of each character.
In a crowded Highland Park Village Theatre room, kids buzzed right up until the movie began, and several belly laughs could be heard throughout the film (especially from the six-year-old who was in our party).
There were a number of chuckles from the adults around me, but they were half-hearted, likely because the characters of “Planes” weren’t all that relatable. Lazy caricatures of the film’s protagonist and supporting roles don’t lend themselves to notable audience connections, and certainly not like what Disney has achieved in the past (I know I’m not the only one who shed tears during Pixar’s “Up”).
To me, “Planes” referenced innuendo more than is appropriate for a G-rated film. Two airplanes kissed passionately (partially) off-screen, and phrases like “look at that propeller” and “nice enough guy, but way too much baggage if you know what I mean” had me wondering whether kids might ask their parents later what that actually meant.
Friends who came along agreed that there was quite a bit of death talk for a children’s movie. At one point, Dusty ponders whether he’s in heaven. As a parent, you might prepare yourself for questions about the finality of death post-screening.
By the way, “Planes” is set to be the first of a aircraft-themed trilogy, and it was supposed to go straight to DVD release. After sitting through the film, despite its pretty aesthetic and occasional humor, it’s easy to see why.
Sound off: if you've seen it, what did you think?