By Simon Miraudo
February 1, 2014
The Cars franchise is Pixar’s cash cow; a kid-pleasing collection of movies tailor-made to sell merchandise (which, at this point, totals in the billions of dollars). The adults don’t much care for them, and unabashed lovers of the studio (including myself) turn a blind eye. “If the little ones enjoy it, and it helps Pixar to raise funds for their more experimental and ambitious efforts, there’s really no harm in them making more,” we all thought. Fools. The lot of us. As Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Pixar’s “experimental and ambitious” efforts – such as Ratatouille and WALL-E – now seem like a distant memory, with the studio now focusing on prequels and sequels to previously successful flicks in this new, terrifying age. One of those is Cars spin-off Planes, which, in fairness, is not actually produced by Pixar (who perhaps were too embarrassed by the brazenness of it) but instead their overlords at Disney. Still, it’s the direct result of their willingness to abandon bolder fare for guaranteed money-spinners.
Featuring the vocal talents of Dane Cook, Teri Hatcher, and, erm, Sinbad, Planes feels like an off-brand, Eastern European imitation. (Half the calories, none of the taste, double the dyspepsia!) Cook plays Dusty, a crop-duster with dreams of competing in a round-the-world race. After unexpectedly qualifying, he meets his competitors (voiced by affordable international stars John Cleese, Priyanka Chopra, and Australia’s own Jessica Marais) and discovers they don’t all play as fairly as he’s been raised to do. Once again, another tale from the Cars universe reminding us that only farm-folk from the American red states can truly be trusted. Everyone else: git off their lawns.
Okay, neither Cars nor Planes are nearly as xenophobic as I’m suggesting, but they do delight in an old-fashioned idea of community and culture that doesn’t feel quaint so much as it feels in total denial of the world we truly live in. The kids won’t care about that stuff though. The animation is dynamic, the colours are bright, and the voices are goofy/ethnic. The toys it will inspire are probably going to be pretty cool too. It’s a shame that Disney and Pixar aren’t in the ‘classic-making’ business anymore; just the ‘distraction-making’ business. Planes is, at the very least, successful as a product of the latter manufacturing line.
Planes will be available on Quickflix from April 9, 2014.