Today is the first day of classes at Illinois, and the second week of school for the kids. So, I have a few minutes to sum up the last two summer movies that we saw in August: Turbo and Planes. To call them blockbusters would be an unethical understatement. But, the review won't take that long to write because they are the same movie. A snail/cropduster has dreams of racing with racecars/stunt planes, gets an amazing opportunity to do so even though his brother/friends warn against it, meets snotty racers who try to sabotage him, meets characters of Mexican heritage and accents, and ultimately wins. Yay!
I am not the only one underwhelmed by Planes, and its name unfortunately writes bad review headlines like "Planes: Crash Landing." Our hopes were high for Planes because it is after all, a Disney/Pixar movie. That being said, it is a spin-off of the Cars franchise, which is one of the least-liked Pixar movies. But, it has to be one of the most lucrative in terms of TOYS. Besides Toy Story toys, we definitely have more Cars toys than any other Pixar franchise. Planes seems like less of a major motion picture than a vehicle for creating more Cars toys to sell. And of course, if you've been to Disneyland recently, Cars Land is one of the greatest wonders of the amusement park world.
That being said, the Cars/Planes story lines don't overlap. Lightning McQueen and Mater are not here. But, some very minor characters reappear (Brent Mustangberger, e.g.), and the "extras" are the same. The Planes world is the same as Cars world; it is a post-human world in which motor vehicles populate the earth. (have you seen this intriguing yet forced explanation of how all the Pixar movies fit together into a timeline between Brave and the post-human world of Cars?) The shots of the stands at the final race are the same as the shots of the stands at the Piston Cup, just with planes every few seats. (I would love to talk to the artists about the challenges of putting planes and cars in the same-size seats, roads, etc.) The world is very pretty, just like the motion picture version of Cars Land. But there's not much of a story here, and the characters are fairly forgettable. (I had to look up the names to be able to write the review.) Dusty is our cropduster hero, who is voiced by Dane Cook, whom I have never heard of before. At least Cars had distinctive, recognizable voices. There is no Paul Newman here, or even Larry the Cable Guy. Dusty wants to be an air racer, but he is afraid of heights. This could be a recurring motif, but it is stated once at the beginning and comes up again at the end, and is resolved in an unbelievable quick scene. There is also a ham-handed ad for American Airlines inside the movie. Leaving, my eleven year-old said, "That is the worst movie I've seen." And let me tell you, he's seen a lot of bad kids' movies!
Turbo, or the "snail movie," was also a dismal afternoon for me, but the kids liked it better than Planes. The first part is pretty cute, with Theo and his brother Chet living with other snails in a tomato garden in suburbia. Like most heros, Theo dreams of another life in which he is a racer. When he accidentally gets doused with nitrous oxide, he has a genetic-level trasnformation and becomes superfast. He winds up in a different part of L.A. in a run-down strip mall with his brother at a back-door snail race, which of course he wins. Then, his new owner, who is half of the Dos Bros Taco restaurant, decides to enter Theo, now Turbo, in the Indy 500. I won't give you the ending, but I bet you can figure it out. For whatever reason, the boys liked it -- maybe because it was funnier, and the voices were more distinctive. So, in this case, Dreamworks with the win!
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