Hey strangers. I went to see Planes last weekend and wanted to write about it. So, I did. Here it is.

First, the Previews…

Grace Unplugged – Maybe the Katy Perry story?
LEGO Movie – Seems silly and fun enough. The Littles were excited.
Walking with Dinosaurs – meh.
DisneyNature Presents Bears – Very exciting. Littler Boy loves all things bears.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 – I never saw the first movie, but am completely won over by the puns littering the trailer.
Free Birds – saving turkeys from Thanksgiving. Looks full of funny moments.
Frozen – cute trailer, but still no real indication of what this movie is about. (I think it’s a princess movie.)

Now, on to the show… (non-spoiler section)

Look! Up in the (Buick) Sky(lark)! It’s a T-Bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s… well, yes, it is a plane. A whole bunch of planes.

A segment of a vehicle society. In their very own movie. There’s a hero who races. A lovable sidekick who makes up for a lack of sense with supreme loyalty. An arrogant, cut-throat rival racer. A bitter old mentor with a haunting history who grumbles about all things racing, but finally relents to teach our hero how to race. A forgotten small town that’s hard to find on a map and rarely visited. No, it’s not Cars, I promise. It’s Planes.

So, obviously, I came into this movie expecting a bit of a retread from the Cars movies. I expected similar characters and storylines to match the similar animation marking the franchise. And I expected it to be okay because I assumed it to be a Pixar movie and we all know that Pixar’s trademark storytelling trumps all.

Except the opening short was missing at the beginning. And Luxo Jr. was missing from the opening credits. And suddenly, it dawned on me that all the advertising for this movie referred to it as “DISNEY’S Planes.” And then, I worried. Still thinking it would work out to be a worthwhile movie, I pushed my fears aside and settled in for Disney’s Planes. A little less excited, but, hey, it’s pretty much the same people working on the film. It’s still going to be fine, right?

Now, some possible spoilers…

Wrong. Sure, there are a few laughs to be had here and there, but, to borrow an aerial theme, Planes is more “Buster’s Flying Circus” than “Blue Angels.” Of course, from Disney’s perspective, it’s a reasonable success, covering almost half of the production budget in the opening weekend.

So, what went wrong? Well, for starters, you know everything that’s going to happen in the movie within the first five minutes. It’s that obvious. As I watched, I held out hope for the plot to sway from its course, but it stayed locked in step with the expected the entire way through. Again, in some circumstances (maybe Monsters University, for instance) this predictability can be overcome by compelling dialogue, endearing characters, or well-crafted story elements.

Unfortunately, Planes doesn’t have any of these in place.

The characters are fine, but far too similar to past characters from other films or written to fit stereotypical straw-planes. The dialogue is far too lazy to engage the audience, even relying on cheap lines to generate laughs. Some examples include: “You really kicked some Aston Martins up there.”, “You’re going to have to lug-nut up.”, and “Go plow yourself.” It’s enough to make my eyes do a barrel roll. As for the story itself, it’s not only trite, but it’s apparently identical to that of Turbo, its box office competitor. Fortunately for Disney, planes are more marketable than snails and/or Disney is more desirable than Dreamworks.

And then there are also a few unnecessary innuendos. “Check out the propeller on that one” and a “Love Machine” serenade that gets that stupid song stuck in your head if nothing else. Granted these are minor (and passing) offenses, but they do blur the line between love and lust, innocence and agenda. That’s a pet peeve.

And a final word before we go…

The ultimate message of Planes (and apparently Turbo) is that if you’re the good guy and you try hard enough, people will like you, you’ll get what you want, and you will win. Now that I reflect on the major plot points of Planes, I realize how eerily it echoes Monsters University (and apparently Turbo). Anyway, it a movie equivalent of an oxygen mask falling from a plane, pumping happiness into your lungs. A visual motivational speakers droning a feel-good message into your subconscious mind.

I’m okay with dreaming and believing you can accomplish great things. I’m okay with success. I encourage both. It’s just important to understand that life is not as predictable as movies like this. And that’s a good thing, too.

Planes was the third most popular movie during its open weekend, which I can only assume means there were a lot of disappointed movie goers last weekend. While not a bad way to pass time (the Littles enjoyed it), I walked away feeling like movie was missing something and wondering what it was… besides Luxo Jr., of course.

peace… love… bdg…