Disney’s Planes Review

Disney's Planes Movie Review

Going into it, I really wanted to hate Disney’s Planes. It’s a DisneyToon Studios release of a film set in the “Pixar Universe,” and it was clearly pitched as a way to sell merchandise. It was originally a direct-to-video title that was bumped to a theater release (I assumed) as a way to sell even more merchandise.

After only the first 10 minutes of Planes, I began to think that maybe merchandising wasn’t the only reason that it was bumped to a theatrical release. While “Planes” was not a great movie, I did not hate it. For what it is, and given my very low expectations, I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a very formulaic story with minimal character development, but it never really misfires or becomes outlandish a la Cars 2. It’s simply a cute story that progresses exactly how you expect it to progress (with a few sly nods to classic aviation films).

My real complaint with regard to the story is that not enough time was spent fleshing out the characters and certain plot points. A couple of characters do make an impact, but the remainder just rest on tropes about certain nationalities. The plot similarly does the bare minimum to explain the why of where it’s going next; it’s very easy to understand, but there are a few points where the rationale for certain actions could be expanded upon just a bit to make it more cogent. 

On the plus side, I was surprised to find a few endearing and scene-stealing characters (my favorite of whom is pictured above). I normally find Dane Cook intolerable, but even he was fine as the lead. I was also a bit taken aback at humor that works on multiple levels at times, and there are no cheap jokes that drag Planes down (one of my biggest complaints about Brave). Overall, with regard to story, it’s nothing earth-shattering, but it’s far superior to what Disney has done with previous direct-to-video releases.

In terms of visuals, Pixar films are known for their gorgeous look, whereas direct-to-video titles are known for sloppy, outsourced animation. This falls somewhere in between the two, with visuals that are sometimes gorgeous and sometimes border on overly simplistic. At no point does it reach the level of depth and detail expected from Pixar, but it also never looks like a direct-to-video title. The ‘hangar farm village’ in the opening scenes is pretty, but underutilized. Other exotic locales are similarly underutilized.

What I think is most unfortunate about Planes is that Disney didn’t choose to devote more attention to Planes and release it under the flagship Pixar label. Whether they like it or not, the egotistical brain-trust at Pixar must realize that this movie will forever be associated with Pixar by general audiences, even if it’s not a Pixar film. Given that, why not devote their time and attention to it so that it, at least visually, is up to their standards? It’s not exactly as if they bestowed a classic piece of cinema upon the world with Cars 2, so I think at this point the ship has sailed on not associating themselves with mediocre films. In fact, I would have gladly taken a dressed-up version of Planes over Cars 2.

Planes is already being ripped apart by critics (it currently sits at 24% on RottenTomatoes), but that score doesn’t tell the whole story. Critics are also giving it a 4.7/10 score on average (24% approval normally doesn’t equate to that high of a score), and 69% of audiences have liked it. I’m not one to trust audience opinion, but it would not surprise me at all if many critics are dismissing the film out of hand before even seeing it because of its roots and original “purpose.” Its original purpose is no doubt disappointing, and that Disney continues to prioritize merchandise sales above quality is really disheartening. However, regardless of Planes’ roots, it’s not an awful film. If you go in with an open mind, you’ll find a movie that, while entirely predictable, is fairly enjoyable for parents. As for kids, they’ll likely love it…and demand hundreds of dollars worth of Planes toys afterwards.

Overall Score: 6/10

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16 Responses to “Disney’s Planes Review”

  1. Mitch says:

    I have a feeling this movie will be very very well liked and do tremendously well at the box office. I want to see it, but probably not in theaters.

  2. Holly says:

    You critics ruin everything.

  3. Matt says:

    it is now up to 26% on the tomatometer. I have yet to see the movie and your opinion actually suprised me, but on a different note, Happy Birthday Haunted Mansion!!!

  4. KCmike says:

    I’m not even sure I will watch it on a dvd/blu-ray release. Cars 2 was so disappointing and I have no doubt it will be better than that but this film just doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Bring on Frozen and Saving Mr. Banks for Christmas.

  5. Cris says:

    I have not seen it yet but I feel like the Planes movies will end up being a success overall. It serves the same purpose as the Tinker Bell movies did in the past for girls. If I were still under 10, I think that I would be all over these movies. They seem like a cool adventure. What guy doesn’t like planes? From what I can tell, it seems like Thomas the Tank Engine but for an older audience.

  6. MainSt1993 says:

    When I first heard about this movie, I was hoping it was going to be a substantial franchise that, if done right, could have brought an expansion to Carsland with innovative new experiences in a separate Planes add-on. This appears to be a re-interpretation of Cars 2. Sigh…

    • Clundgren says:

      It’s actually much more a rip-off of Cars than the sequel, but it’s much thinner than Cars, which IMO was already a second-tier Pixar effort. I took my seven year old son this morning. He sort of enjoyed it, but didn’t really talk much about it afterwards (if he likes a film he’ll talk about it for days). I found it incredibly dull.

      Planes is just a really banal film. Although it is competently made, there isn’t a single original impulse in it. The story relies on the most retread of themes (follow your dreams! Face your fears! Do unto others!) and doesn’t feature a single memorable character or performance. It also invokes every insipid nation-based stereotype you can think of, and pays homage to the US armed forces in a way that made me very uncomfortable in a children’s movie.

      In short, John Lasseter should be ashamed to have his name on this. It’s not a movie, it’s an extended commercial. And a bad one at that.

      • Clundgren says:

        I want to add that while the film was a disappointment, the venue was fantastic. I’m staying at the DLH right now (Adventure Tower) and, since we had a rest day, decided what better than to take in a Disney movie at the Downtown Disney theatres. The building is designed in a cool kind of retro Art Deco style, the screens are huge, and the seats should mandated by law into every theatre everywhere. Highly recommended.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        I can see your points (especially the military part, I had forgotten about that), but I don’t think it’s quite *that* bad. It certainly won’t go down as an animated classic, but as the animated equivalent of a summer popcorn flick, it’s decent enough. It’s just that we expect Disney/Pixar animated films to be much more than simple popcorn flicks.

  7. Lolololol says:

    I think your analyzing it too much. It’s a kids movie.

    • Annie says:

      I think that’s actually a big misconception about kids’ movies. Why shouldn’t we expect kids’ movies to be just as good and meaningful as films for adults? If any studio proves that it’s possible, it’s Disney.

    • Clundgren says:

      I *like* lots of kids movies. The classic Pixar films are kids movies, but there is more art in any ten seconds of “Up” than in all of Planes.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Ironic, given that Disney is the studio that raised the standards of “kids movies” to make them (animated films) enjoyable for viewers of all ages. Being an animated film and an intelligent film are not mutually exclusive.

  8. Niki says:

    My 6 year old son loved it. I think it will hit its target group. For me I loved the Top Gun nodes.

  9. Keri M says:

    Glad to hear it was better then you expected. My husband’s cousin worked on this movie for 3 years as the Production Manager (she also was the production manager for Tangled!). I don’t think it will be nearly as good as Tangled but I plan on supporting her and seeing it this weekend :)

  10. Anna says:

    My kids really enjoyed the movie, and isn’t that the ultimate purpose? So can we expect any “Planes” activities at WDW in September?

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