We have a running joke in my family about Double Features. It stems from my dad and his buying my mom two pairs of tennis shoes for Christmas one year. He found it hilarious for some reason and I recall my mom whacking him with one of those shoes. (It’s one of those you-had-to-be-there situations.) So now we endeavor to buy my dad double features of every gift.
Anyway, that memory has nothing to do with this review.
I haven’t written a movie review in a while now, and for that I apologize, and say only this: the movies and TV shows I HAVE been watching cater to innocent young minds with short attention spans.
Sound like you? Okay, great!
Let’s focus on Disney/Pixar’s Cars (2006) and Disney’s Planes (2013). Seven years and Cars 2 lie between them but my three-year-old loves them both just the same. And why not? With talking vehicles of every kind, speedy action sequences, and brightly-colored animation, these two films are a young boy’s dream. (You know, before puberty ruins it all with . . . hormones.)
Some have protested that Planes carries the same basic formula as Cars, but I don’t think that’s bad. (For those that do, I guess they’ll have to take it up with writer John Lasseter.) Both are about high-stakes races and feature a protagonist that needs all his good friends’ help to win, but how each character arrives at that point is quite different. Rather than ramble on in compare-and-contrast essay fashion, here’s a quick list:
|No humans, all characters are vehicles of some kind||No humans, all characters are vehicles of some kind|
|Mentor car Doc Hudson||Mentor WWII airplane Skipper|
|Love interest Sally Carrera eventually gives main character her support||Love interest Ishani eventually gives main character her support|
|Supporting best friend, a tow truck named Mater, is true to his quirky self no matter what others say||Supporting best friend, a Spanish plane named El Chupacabra, is true to his quirky self no matter how his love interest spurns him|
|Antagonist Chick Hicks is a selfish little cheater||Antagonist Ripslinger is a selfish little cheater|
|About cars and a race on the ground||About planes and a global race in the air|
|Protagonist: Lightning McQueen, a cocky racecar who learns there’s more to life than hubris and winning a race||Protagonist: Dusty Crophopper, a humble crop-duster who learns how to overcome his fears to achieve his dream of winning the race|
|McQueen decides to throw the race in favor of being a kind person, er, car||Ishani actually betrays Dusty before proving herself a friend|
|Animation (with Pixar instead of DisneyToons) is crisper and more detailed||Story runs around the world, encountering multiple cultures|
|Dusty is not the only character who undergoes personal growth|
Already feels like you’ve seen these movies just by reading the above, doesn’t it? I have a trick for this.
Say you buy a kids movie for your kid. And imagine yourself sitting down with him none too excited for the next 90 – 110 minutes. It’s OK! Grab a snack and a book (or your phone). Every once and a while, look up and watch whatever scene happens to be playing. Remember it. Then return to your reading.
If your child is anything like my son, you’ll be watching this movie MANY times. By the nth time around, you’ll have seen the entire movie, but in short bursts of lively action and humor. In other words, it’s a like a puzzle for the adult mind. String those short scenes you’ve watched into one long strand and wa-laa! Man, that was a nice little movie, wasn’t it?
Love the little details before it grows stale and chuckle at the innuendo your kid will one day realize was there. Both movies offer a handful of vehicle-themed gags and puns, and if you’re into that, it won’t be too bad.
Overall, Cars and Planes are both solid children’s movies, with lovable characters and important feel-good themes. Props to the writers for the humorous dialogue as well. For characters that are cars and planes, I didn’t feel like the emotions were hindered. The animators did a wonderful job there. It was all in the eyes, mouths, and how the wheels tilt.
And, of course, the voice actors’ performances. From Cars, we have Owen Wilson,
Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, and Larry the Cable Guy (what a strange moniker). For Planes, we get Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Priyanka Chopra, and Carlos Alazraqui (name in order for their respective character roles).
As a parent, I deeply appreciate how happy my son feels when he watches these movies. As an adult film fan, I can only fantasize about the hours my son will be asleep so I can go watch Homeland and Interstellar.
However, that’s the nature of the life. I’m sure my parents felt the same way about me and my lip-syncing Disney princesses. At least all I get from cars and planes is “Vroom!” and “Whoosh!” and the occasional “Uh oh! It CRASHED!!! Oh no!!!!!!!!!!” (Yes, the number of exclamation marks is absolutely necessary.)
Rating: IMO, Cars is the better movie, but maybe that’s only because it was the first of its kind in the vehicles-as-humans Disney world. It has the better jokes and the better overall message about what’s valuable at the end of the day: friendship and family. Planes gives you a good time, too, though, and if deep inside you’re just a little kid who wants to go fast, hey, here you go. B+/B, respectively.
ASV Villainy Rating: Are you kidding me? I have very few ideas on how to turn these films to the dark side. I mean, c’mon. Even if the main characters were bad to the bone, the stories are about races. So . . . they turn into their antagonists, win the race by cheating, and give the middle finger, er, wheel(?) to everyone else. Yea, that’s evil, that is. Not. So, they get a T-Too Good for Us.