A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Although its aim is to entertain rather than educate, Planes will teach kids a bit about the physics of aeronautics and flight, as well as information (some of it stereotypical in a way that's intended to be funny) about other cultures -- like the fact that cows are considered sacred in India, as well as customary dress and/or landmarks.
Dusty's journey encourages viewers to not feel limited by their exteriors. Even though he's repeatedly told that he's not up to the task, Dusty works hard to overcome his fears and flaws and compete with the more experienced racing planes. Dusty dreams of doing more than he was built for, and he asks his fans to do the same. Friends are loyal and supportive of each other.
Positive Role Models
Dusty is disciplined in his practices to fly higher and faster. He overcomes all the odds and proves his naysayers wrong through his commitment and hard work. Skipper comes out of his self-imposed exile to teach Dusty all he knows about flying fast and with precision. Dusty's friends Chug and Dottie are extremely supportive and cheer him on as he tries to do the impossible. On the downside, there are many cultural stereotypes in the movie -- particularly about Mexican, Indian, British, and Southern people/cultures -- and, in a joke early in the movie, one male plane refers to other male planes as "ladies," implying that they're inferior.
Violence & Scariness
A few scenes of peril when it seems like Dusty might crash or die, like when he's caught in a terrible storm and goes underwater, when he flies through a tunnel that a train is approaching head on, or when Ripslinger and his crew injure him. A flashback shows an entire squadron of fighter planes being downed (being shot at, crashing into flames, plunging into the sea).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Chupacabra pursues Rochelle, with whom he's fallen in love; after a dramatic serenade, she falls for him, too, and he shows up the next day covered in pink kiss marks. They touch noses and call each other nicknames. Dusty and Ishani are flirtatiously sweet to each other. A male plane says "look at that propeller" while looking at a female plane's backside.
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Insults like "idiot," "moron," "knucklehead," "loser," "punks," "farm boy," "bum," and "go plow yourself."
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Products & Purchases
The only brand referred to in the movie itself is Apple; a plane is looking at what is obviously a tablet computer, and he calls it a "SkyPad." But there are lots of off-screen licensing/merchandise tie-ins: clothes, games, apps, and more.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Reference to a fuel enhancer that disqualifies one of the participating planes.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.