A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Disney's Planes is an adventure that, like Cars, takes place in a world populated by vehicles. A few scenes of peril that place main characters in danger (a terrible storm, a squadron of fighter planes crashing, etc.) may upset younger/more sensitive kids, as may the tension of the big race itself. Because the story is about a crop duster who dares to compete against racing planes, many insults are hurled his way -- like "farm boy," "loser," and "bum," as well as "idiot" and "moron." There's an overt romantic subplot between two secondary characters, including a moonlight serenade and the appearance of lots of kiss marks on the male plane's body. Parents are likely to notice a quick derogatory reference to male planes as "ladies" and a lot of cultural stereotypes in the movie (which warrant a post-viewing check-in with kids). But ultimately the message encourages kids to overcome their limitations.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
PLANES, like Cars, takes place in a world in which all the inhabitants are vehicles. Ambitious young Nebraskan crop duster Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) dreams of flying in an annual international air race called Wings Around the World. To hone his skills, he asks legendary (and reclusive) former WWII fighter plane Skipper (Stacy Keach) to train him for the race and mechanic pal Dottie (Teri Hatcher) to get him ready for maximum speed. But former three-time racing champion Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith) has no intention of letting some "farm boy" underdog beat him, so he enlists other planes in the competition to sabotage Dusty's chances. Meanwhile, Dusty befriends a Mexican plane called El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui), who looks out for him during the race.
Is it any good?
There are definitely a few laugh-aloud moments in Planes, but that's basically all there is -- several disconnected moments in which one-liners hit their mark. The rest is made up of amusing but formulaic story strands that are strung together by the "vehicles as people and animals" theme. The tried-and-true underdog story is so predictable that even the youngest viewers will be able to figure out the outcome long before the end of the big race.
Of course, that does not mean that kids won't laugh and cheer Dusty on or that parents will want to fall asleep. This is Disney, after all, so the movie is well animated, watchable, and passably amusing; it's just not nearly as good as it could be. The absurd number of cultural stereotypes mined for laughs is fine at first (hardy har har, Brits don't cry; Mexicans love lucha libre and mariachi), but after a while it's major overkill. Kids -- especially those who love planes or vehicles of any kind -- will love Planes, but it's definitely worth reminding them when it's over that not all people from Mexico, England, India, Quebec, the South, etc. are the way they were depicted in the movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Planes' message. What does Dusty learn over the course of the movie? Kids: How can you apply the movie's lessons to your own life?
Several cultural stereotypes are depicted in the movie -- like the Mexican wrestler, the mariachi band, the idea that the British don't cry, etc. What's the difference between falling back on a stereotype and highlighting funny generalizations about certain groups of people?
Kids: What made you want to see this movie -- the story or all of the product tie-ins and its similarities to Cars? Does the movie make you want a toy or clothes with Dusty or the other characters' pictures on it?
- In theaters: August 9, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: November 19, 2013
- Cast: Dane Cook, Jon Cryer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Val Kilmer
- Director: Klay Hall
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild action and rude humor
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