'Cars' spinoff 'Planes' is a little plain, and lacks humor.

AuthorHorwitz, Jane


"PLANES'' PG -- In the style of the animated "Cars'' films (both rated G), "Planes'' tells this tale with picture-book simplicity and zero subtlety about a single-engine crop-duster named Dusty (voice of Dane Cook) who longs to fly in a round-the-world race. Each character operates on a single personality trait. True, they are planes, trucks and forklifts that can talk, but still. What humor there is seems designed to amuse parents, not kids.

The film also tends to glorify war and military hardware. At a preview screening, The Family Filmgoer noticed little ones fidgeting quite a bit. The concept has much in common with the current animated film about a racing garden snail, "Turbo'' (PG), which is far richer in humor and character and deserves better box-office sales.

Dusty dreams of entering the race, even though he's afraid of flying above 1,000 feet. His forklift mechanic pal Dottie (Teri Hatcher), his fuel truck buddy Chug (Brad Garrett), and his senior crop-duster boss Leadbottom (Cedric the Entertainer) all try to discourage him, but he does pretty well in the qualifying round, and through a fluke, makes the final cut. Dusty begs an old World War II navy fighter plane, Skipper (Stacy Keach), for pointers, and the cranky old guy eventually becomes a friend.

n the race, Dusty foils the jealous sabotage of the bullying plane Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith), and befriends the British plane Bulldog (John Cleese), the South Asian plane Ishani (Priyanka Chopra) and the Mexican playboy plane El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui), as he braves icebergs, railway tunnels, the Himalayas, the Pacific and the Grand Canyon. Parents may want to sit down with the kids and a world map afterward.

THE BOTTOM LINE: "Planes'' has a lot of mild sexual innuendo that kids will miss, while adults chuckle: When Dusty has his crop-dusting apparatus removed to improve his speed, he asks nervously if the procedure is "reversible,'' and his voice briefly cracks. The youngest kids may worry when Dusty flies through storms, narrowly misses mountaintops and (SPOILER ALERT) falls into the Pacific. Of course he survives to fly another day.

"PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS'' PG -- Short on the charm, storytelling and character development that made the first film ("Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief,'' PG, 2010) such fun, this sequel (again based on a novel in the series by Rick Riordan) is a convoluted mass of special effects and weak...

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