0.5 stars (out of four)
No one saw Pixar embarrass itself with "Cars 2" and said, "Not only do I want to see this sort of thing again, but please cast someone even less beloved than Larry the Cable Guy!"
Still, Disney originally planned "Planes," a spinoff of the "World of `Cars,' " as a straight-to-DVD release. For some reason ($$$) it now arrives in theaters, with the freshness of straight-to-laserdisc. Following in the tradition of virtually every family movie in recent memory, crop-dusting plane Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) longs to prove that, "maybe, just maybe, I can do more than what I was built for." Seriously, he really says that. This is as good a time as any to note that "Planes" comes from a writer and director of two different straight-to-DVD movies with Tinker Bell in the title.
Despite his fear of heights and questionable dimensions, Dusty wants to enter a race around the world, complaining that he's flown thousands of miles but has never been anywhere. (Viewers know this as Stationary Biker's Lament.) This sparks an endless stream of cheap characterizations, including the retired ol' war plane (Stacy Keach) and a competitor named El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui) in the latest example of animated films using Mexican characters as zesty comic relief. Just because the plane is Hispanic doesn't mean his love interest (a French stereotype) needs to call him her quesadilla!
Let's not waste time discussing how little sense the movie's people-free world makes or bother wondering where baby planes come from. The offensively lazy "Planes" (whose sequel arrives next summer) contains no indication that it's meant to be enjoyed or thought about, only purchased. Comments like "Ladies and gentleplanes" and a ship called, I kid you not, the USS Dwight D. Flysenhower are what pass for jokes. Brent Musburger reprises his "Cars 2" role as announcer Brent Mustangburger. Worse, a film low on stakes and attention to the details of flying periodically dives toward crass, out-of-place acknowledgments of death.
Here's the part where some may say, "Who cares what you thought? It's a movie for kids." On my way out of the theater, an 11-year-old (I asked his age) commented on the film's stupidity. I rest my case.
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