Over the years Disney and Pixar have made so many magical movies... but this is not one of them (by way of explanation, Planes is a Disney movie that takes place in the world of another Disney-Pixar movie, but is not technically a Pixar film. Make sense?). It's not bad, it's just not awesome. There are certainly worse options out there (a recent release about little blue people, for example). Planes is cute, funny, kind of sweet, and forgettable. That’s a shame, because a good little-engine-that-could story is always inspirational. Unfortunately, there's a 'been there, done that' quality to this spin-off that makes it almost impossible to get off the ground, even for cute talking machines and a high-powered cast. Word on the street is this film was originally slated as a direct-to-DVD release; that probably would have been the better choice.

All in all, Planes is an agreeable story about a likeable little guy trying to reach for the stars (or given Dusty's issues with heights, to reach for the clouds). While the outcome is never in doubt, families can expect a pleasant flight.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: One of the planes is disqualified for using illegal fuel. As the race progresses, several 'watch parties' are shown in the mechanical world's equivalent of bars; the machines drink oil so it's not exactly alcohol, but the equivalent.
  • Language/Profanity: No profanity, but some name-calling.
  • Sex/Nudity: Just a sweet romance between two planes; he is shown covered in lipstick kisses and repeatedly pulled off camera to gather more.
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: Some of the aerial fighting may be intense for little ones, but most likely not. In a flashback sequence some planes are blown up and it is inferred that they died.
  • Spiritual Themes: When the race stops in India the "wild tractors" are referred to as sacred and the Indian plane says "some believe we are recycled as tractors" in a reference to reincarnation. Dusty is a hero for anyone who wants to "become more than you’re built for," but doesn’t that mean the one who built you didn’t know what he was doing? It sounds inspiring at first but on further reflection seems a bit of a slur on the creator (which for a plane is not a big deal, but for a person whose Creator is God, that’s another story). On the plus side, Dusty makes it clear that people... er, planes... are more important than winning, and his virtue is eventually rewarded.

Publication date: August 9, 2013