The latest, ahem, vehicle from a Disney factory evidently bereft of ideas yet borne aloft by an inexhaustible supply of good will, Planes
doesn’t so much expand the mechanized universe of Pixar's Cars
as streamline the storytelling. This is a straightforward lark about a plucky crop-duster afraid of heights who manages to qualify for a round-the-world race. The global stereotypes lend themselves to humor at turns racist (the Mexican plane wears a wrestling mask), anti-racist (the gleaming, unaccented Mexican air force saves the American champ), and meta-racist (the Mexican plane harbors romantic stirrings for a sleek French-Canadian craft) while also enabling the studio’s trademark nuggets of scattershot whimsy: Shouldn’t JFK air-traffic controllers all sound like JFK? It’s all wholly predictable, of course, and the rather pedestrian voice actors—Dane Cook, Stacy Keach—dearly lack the audible charms of Cars
’ Owen Wilson. Still, the target audience, thrilling to a 3-D format invoked for maximum impact, couldn’t care less, and there’s enough Pixar magic to mollify parental concerns about the two-dimensional characters. Does our hero defy the odds (and all logic)? Will the seemingly daft flirtations between a good-natured rube and an Indian temptress lead to something more? Do Hindi jets sanctify steam-powered locomotives? Buckle up, it’s gonna be a smooth ride.