Movie Review: Planes

*Disclosure: We received passes to attend a screening in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are honest and my own.

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I expected to hate Disney’s Planes (in theaters August 9), but I didn’t. Still, I’m not sure that’s saying much. Read on for my full review.



Before the movie even opens and the Planes title appears, a huge banner pounds onto the screen: “World of Cars,” as if to put us squarely in our place. Which it does – but, I think, ultimately to its own detriment. Planes leans too much on the Cars formula – podunk town, main character with buffoon-ish truck for best friend, gritty old-timer for mentor, and mean, jealous pro as foil –¬†and is an unoriginal, recycled story idea, right down to voice actors who could be easily confused for each other (Dusty/Lightning, Doc/Skipper, Chick Hicks/Ripslinger – they all sound almost exactly the same).

I *will* admit that I’m a sucker for the over-riding message, which is “I’m meant for more than I was built for,” so I’ll give Planes points for that. Which is exactly what I gave points to Turbo for when it opened last month.

The PG Rating

The PG rating is appropriate here, given the adult jokes and innuendo peppered throughout the movie. For instance, phrases like “It’s time to lug-nut up!,” “He kicked Aston Martin!,” and “You sad? You drink!!” are put in for (I’m assuming) big laughs.

There are also some intense scenes, which mostly serve the story and aren’t too bad for younger kids.

There is one scene, though, which just makes me plain angry, and it’s also one of my biggest complaints from Cars 2.

*****(very minor) SPOILER ALERT (I don’t think this “gives anything away” in what passes for a plot in this movie)*******

Filmmakers go to such lengths to humanize these planes to the kids in the audience, giving them voices, personality, and human characteristics. Kids begin to identify with them. Which is why I think it is SO IRRESPONSIBLE to then have a scene showing some of the planes being loudly, violently shot to smithereens right in front of them. My 5yo son gripped my arm and with tears in his eyes, wailed “That’s so sad!!!!” Some parents have mentioned that the scene – although shocking – didn’t last that long, and they’re right. It’s one minute in the whole film, and happens in flashback to unknown characters, but I still felt it was done in incredibly poor taste.

What DID Work for Me

Like I said at the beginning, I didn’t hate this movie. And that’s probably because of the stunning visual effects. The one thing Planes CAN do that Cars couldn’t (and never will), is get the audience soaring through canyons and over rivers and across beautiful vistas. This movie was lovely to watch.

It also had some fun, pumped up tunes coursing throughout, which made it lovely to listen to.

Finally, the peripheral characters are all supportive of their good friend Dusty, and it was nice to see that camaraderie.

The Bottom Line

Though I have my complaints, there are parts of Planes I did enjoy. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it again as a whole family on $5 Tuesdays at our local theater, and we’ll probably buy it on DVD (which, I just learned, is where it was originally meant to debut – NOT on the big screen). But I won’t be waiting in line to see Planes 2, though I’m sure that story is already on the drawing board.