Talking automobiles, talking planes … Can a talking-trains movie be in Disney’s future?
Though not officially a Pixar production, the new “Planes” — released by the beloved animation studio’s parent company, Disney — has the look and feel of Pixar’s 2006 hit, “Cars,” if not the latter’s charm or strong story.
Nevertheless, “Cars” serves as a template for “Planes,” which similarly features a young, hotshot racer who comes under the tutelage of a grizzled old pro.
“Planes’ ” hero, a small crop-duster named Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook), leads a humble life, but dreams of entering an international competition — an around-the-world race — dominated by much bigger aircraft.
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Encouraged by his pals Chug (Brad Garrett), a truck; and Dottie (Teri Hatcher), a forklift, Dusty decides to take a chance and turns to a venerable, if intolerant, World War II bomber, Skipper (Stacy Keach), to teach him how to fly higher and faster.
The worldwide contest becomes the narrative spine of “Planes,” introducing an array of enjoyable fellow racers and delicious performances by the likes of John Cleese as the voice of a chipper, British craft; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a potential romantic interest; Priyanka Chopra, a passenger plane from India; and above all, Carlos Alazraqui, as a Latino lover and macho friend to Dusty. Also in the vocal cast are Val Kilmer, Cedric the Entertainer, Sinbad and Roger Craig Smith as the villainous Ripslinger.
Unfortunately, the speed of the “Planes” story and the script’s constant shifts in Dusty’s racing progress more resemble the busy nonsense of Pixar’s disastrous “Cars 2” than the engaging, character-driven plot of “Cars.”
But a recent 3-D screening of the movie reveals visual delights, especially virtual aerial footage and such clever — even startling — detail as the sight of white gliders soaring and scattering like geese. Strengths and weaknesses taken together, “Planes” drags as much as it lifts.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org