By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Cars had drive, Planes takes flight. Can Trains be tracking far behind?
Having appreciated the wonderful Cars and even appreciated the largely dismissed sequel, Cars 2, I’m not surprised to be moderately charmed, if substantially less than carried away with, the spinoff Planes, the first of a planned animated trilogy that’s once again transportation-themed.
Yes, Planes is above Cars in height and well below it in quality. But that’s not to say that the PG-rated family film misses its target audience.
It should probably be pointed out that this film was originally headed straight to video, which is a scary thought, until we’re reminded that the magnificent Toy Story 2 started out that way, too.
Well, Planes is no Toy Story 2, to be sure. And it doesn’t have, or even try to have, the kind of winking adult humor that operates on a second level as the child-oriented dialogue is delivered.
But as a kidflick, it gets the job done.
Dusty Crophopper, voiced by Dane Cook, is a cropduster good at spreading smelly fertilizer but afraid of heights, which makes his already unrealistic desire to compete as an air racer in the around-the-world “Wings of the Globe” competition pretty much of a pipedream.
But a high-flying veteran aviator, Skipper Riley (Stacy Keach), a Corsair who thrived during World War II, becomes Dusty’s mentor and helps him train for the racing circuit.
Director Klay Hall (Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure and lots of television projects) and screenwriter Jeffrey M. Howard aim unapologetically at the kids, with just enough amusing exchanges throughout for the script to qualify as a comedy.
But they’re obviously letting the gorgeous and inventively bright animation, most prominently in the numerous graceful and lovely flying sequences, do the heavy lifting.
Not that young viewers will mind, but the film’s producers hitch a ride in the back seat of Cars and don’t even try to find their own route to the minds and hearts of the audience. They’re not trying to surprise or impress anybody.
But they know that their eye-popping computer-generated visuals will work for all ages, especially for youngsters enamored of flying vehicles, who should be enthralled.
With plenty of familiar celebrity voices sprinkled throughout the cast –- including Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Cedric the Entertainer, John Cleese, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Val Kilmer, Sinbad, Anthony Edwards, Brent Musburger, and John Ratzenberger -– grownups in attendance will find just enough stimulation to appreciate the gift they are giving as chaperones.
So we’ll fly above 2½ stars out of 4 for Planes, which effectively entertains the family audience despite having a familiar wing to it.