There are funnier cartoons than the “Cars” universe of movies, and smarter ones and animated films with more heart.
But there’s nothing like the “World of ‘Cars’ ” for toy tie-ins, or so the reasoning must have been for “Planes,” the worst of the animated blockbusters to come our way this summer. A bland, joyless plucky-little-plane race comedy, it’s even more starved of jokes than Pixar’s “Monsters University,” as if that was possible.
“Planes” is about a crop duster named Dusty who longs to be more “than just what I was built for. I’ve flown thousands of miles and I’ve never been anywhere.”
DIRECTED BY: Klay Hall
WITH VOICES OF: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Sinbad and Cedric the Entertainer
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
His elders (Cedric the Entertainer) might remind him that “You were built for seed, not speed.” But Dusty longs to escape Propwash Junction, and with the help of his fuel truck pal (Brad Garrett) and trusty mechanic forklift (Teri Hatcher), he might just get into the round-the-world race and win fame and glory.
So it’s “Cars II” with planes. Or “Turbo” without the snail.
Where are the laughs?
They cast salty comic Dane Cook as the voice of Dusty, and gave him nothing funny to say. Garrett, Hatcher, Stacy Keach (playing a grizzled World War II F4U Corsair), funnymen John Cleese and Cedric the Entertainer, funnywoman Julia Louis-Dreyfus (as a French-Canadian race plane), all great voices playing trucks or planes, none of them with anything amusing to work with.
A few national stereotypes — stuck-up Brit, Latin Lover — don’t deliver laughs, either.
Like “Cars,” this was based on an idea from studio head John Lasseter, who apparently is surrounded by “yes” men and women. Nobody was there to tell him wonderfully detailed animated airplanes — “Skipper,” the Corsair, remembers his combat days in a vivid recreation of World War II at one point — do not a movie make. A perfect 1930s Gee Bee racer replica isn’t funny, even when it’s given a Mexican accent.
Casting two actors from “Top Gun” to voice Navy jets? Giving sports announcers Brett Musberger and Colin Cowherd (as a blimp) race coverage announcing jobs? Real side splitters.
“Planes” looks, sounds and feels like a direct-to-video project, which in an earlier age when people still bought DVDs it would have been. In theaters, it’s nothing more than a laughless 90-minute commercial for toys available at a retailer near you.