As my two sons and I sat watching Planes, Disney's latest animated movie for kids, I was overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu.
Rookie-racer wants to take on the world? Check. Rookie-racer has the support of a bunch of loyal friends? Check. Rookie-racer is mentored by old codger? Check. Rookie-racer comes up against a flashy full-of-himself villain? Check. Rookie-racer triumphs despite the bad guy's efforts? Well, I'll leave you to see the film for itself to find out about that one.
As the credits rolled I thought to myself: "Now where have I see this film before?"
Before concluding: "Ah, yes. Pixar's Cars."
And that's what Planes is: Cars – with wings. A formula straight off the shelf.
The plot (see above) is about a group of high-flying friends. Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) is a low-flying crop duster with a fear of heights (and a look of Lightning McQueen) but with the support of his mentor, retired World War Two fighter Skipper (Stacy Keach), and the encouragement of some new friends and a love interest (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), he is able to realise his dream of competing in a famous around-the-world air race.
There are some fabulous 3D flying sequences that make you feel like you're on a rollercoaster but that's all there was, really, in terms of thrills and spills.
And if I hadn't seen Cars (and Cars 2), then it would have been a very enjoyable, very colourful racing romp.
But the problem was that both me and my sons have seen the aforementioned movies more times than I care to remember (the joy of using the DVD player on rainy days) so it felt like Planes was just a flying doppelganger.
There's nothing actually wrong with Planes – but there's nothing memorably right, either.
And I knew this because as soon as we walked out of the cinema, my boys, aged eight and five, started asking me, 'So what are we going to do next', when they usually ask (after recent excursions to see Monsters University and Despicable Me 2), 'That was brilliant, Dad. When can we see it again?'
Planes is a pleasant feel-good movie, but it doesn't stand comparison with some other recent releases – and, sadly, it is all too easy to compare it to Cars.
But if you haven't seen Cars, go and see Planes. Especially if it's raining.
To mark the release of Planes on August 16, more than 8,000 people simultaneously launched paper planes from the UK's leading family festival, Camp Bestival in Dorset, at precisely 10.30am last Saturday. Exactly 8080 people threw a paper plane, setting a UK record for the most paper aircraft flown at the same time in Britain.
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