Looking like a lifeless, creativity-free cash-in on a tired franchise, Planes acts the part as well for the first hour or so. A barely-tweaked, character-for-character carbon copy of Cars, the narrative hurls itself into a bonheaded plot mechanic, then lazily skywrites its way to oblivion.
And then things get interesting.
The movie no longer sucks as it teeters into the third act. Much like Happy Feet, it ventures gleefully off to crazy town, taking on a severely dark tone. Refusing to play it safe any longer, it becomes genuinely dangerous and exciting. For the first time, it's not quite clear where things are going, and characters that seemed poorly written suddenly have some definition and edge.
There is much to hate about this movie. Far more than there is to love, in fact. But I appreciate the dangerous turn so much that the glee overtook the Dane Cook-baked misery that led up to that point. The movie works, almost in spite of itself, and though it predictably coasts toward a predictable ending, at least it manages to accomplish the task with flourish.
Still, though, I have to voice my hatred of some of the crap that came before. Ahem.
* The movie shows a televised plane race. These do not exist. How stupid.
* Just like the bizarre world of Cars, humans do not exist. They must have been all killed somehow. Cars do exist, but their only purpose is to serve as forklifts or as crowd filler in the stands.
* Dane Cook does an Owen Wilson impersonation as the main character, a crop duster who decides to compete against jet fighters and such to prove to be the fastest plane on earth. I hated everything about this character until he suddenly starts calling another pompous plane out on his BS. Then I only disliked him.
Starring the voices of Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Brad Garrett. Written by Jefrey M. Howard. Directed by Klay Hall. 92 minutes. Rated G.