Reel Reviews

‘Planes’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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High-flying family fun

Having conquered the world of “Cars,” Disney waves its anthropomorphic wand skyward in “Planes,” a delightful 3-D animated adventure.

From a clever, pun-filled script by Jeffrey M. Howard, “Planes” excels on two, well, planes. The animation dazzles with exhilarating air races over beautiful scenery, while the entertaining plot offers good lessons for kids about friendship and overcoming obstacles.

Dusty (voice of Dane Cook) is a spirited crop-duster who dreams of something better: a dazzling career as a high-flying racer. It’s a classic underdog story, with naysayers at every turn in the small town of Propwash Junction.

“I just hope to be better than what I was built for,” Dusty dreams.

He’s fast, despite being a single-prop plane, but Dusty has a potentially fatal flaw: He’s afraid of heights. That’s not normally a problem, as crop dusters fly low and slow.

Determined to succeed, he persuades Skipper Riley (voice of Stacy Keach), a crusty veteran of wartime air battles, to train him for the “Wings Around the Globe” race. His non-aircraft support team includes Chug (voice of Brad Garrett), an advice-dispensing fuel truck, and Dottie (voice of Teri Hatcher), a sassy forklift and whiz mechanic.

Dusty qualifies, and is pitted against the best planes in the world. The international cast includes Bulldog (voice of John Cleese), a stuffy British flyer; Rochelle (voice of Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a comely French-Canadian racer; El Chupacabra (voice of Carlos Alazraqui), a Mexican lover boy who only has eyes for Rochelle; and Ishani (voice of Priyanka Chopra), an exotic Indian flyer.

The racer to beat is fellow Yankee Ripslinger (voice of Roger Craig Smith), a devious Mustang who would rather crash and burn than be beaten by an upstart “farm boy.”

“Planes" zooms across the globe, from America to Europe, across the Himalayas, past China and over the Pacific to Mexico, rendering familiar sights along the way.

Adults will enjoy the many sight gags and puns. Fans follow the race on “FlewTube” using their “skyPads.” The much-maligned, cowlike tractors who were tipped over in “Cars” are elevated to sacred status in India and roam freely. The aircraft carrier that comes to Dusty’s rescue is the U.S.S. Dwight D. Flysenhower.

Aside from some action sequences – including stormy weather and a wartime flashback – which might cause turbulence for the youngest aviators in the audience, “Planes” is just the ticket for the entire family.

The film contains a few perilous situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer Catholic News Service 

‘The Smurfs 2’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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These blue hues make you laugh

If summer’s speedy passing has you feeling blue, then head to “The Smurfs 2” (Columbia) for a jolly pick-me-up. The lighthearted tone of this 3-D sequel – which like its 2011 predecessor, mixes animation with live action – comes courtesy of the familiar azure-hued elves of the title.

Young children will be enchanted and laugh themselves silly, while their parents will appreciate the script’s positive messages about friendship and family – potty jokes notwithstanding.

Raja Gosnell returns to direct the proceedings, which once again showcase the widely beloved comic-book characters created by Belgian cartoonist Peyo (Pierre Culliford, 1928-1992). Besides the earlier film, Peyo’s diminutive figures – said to be only three apples tall – also populated a 1980s Hanna-Barbera televised cartoon series.

Picking up from the events of the first big-screen outing, evil human wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) remains obsessed with the squishy, sky-colored creatures. He wants the formula for “Smurf-essence,” which promises eternal beauty and unlimited power. Gargamel fashions his own elves to infiltrate Smurf Village. The first mole he created, the blond-tressed Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry), failed him. She was turned – as they say in the world of espionage – and is now one of the family.

So Gargamel tries again with two new beings whom he dubs the Naughties: Vexy (voice of Christina Ricci) and Hackus (voice of J.B. Smoove). Vexy kidnaps Smurfette and returns her to Gargamel, who has set up shop in Paris as a celebrity sorcerer, playing the city’s famed Opera House nightly. Papa Smurf (voice of Jonathan Winters, in his last film role) must rally the troops to rescue Smurfette before she is forced to reveal the formula – an eventuality which would, we are told, unleash “total Smurf-ageddon.” Joining him are Clumsy (voice of Anton Yelchin), Grouchy (voice of George Lopez) and Vanity (voice of John Oliver). Much like Snow White’s dwarves, a Smurf's name is a good indication of his character and temperament.
There’s human assistance, too, in the form of still-loyal friends: couple Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) now have a son named, naturally, Blue (Jacob Tremblay). Victor (Brendan Gleeson), Patrick’s estranged stepfather and owner of a chain of corn dog restaurants (don’t ask), tags along for the ride.

As the search for Smurfette barrels along, the City of Light has never looked lovelier – or bluer. Amid the slapstick action sequences, there’s a lot of talk about family, especially parentage. Does Smurfette owe allegiance to her real “father,” Gargamel, or to Papa Smurf, who welcomed her to Smurfdom?

“It doesn't matter where you come from,” Papa Smurf instructs. “What matters is who you choose to be.” There's more, as “The Smurfs 2” concludes with a surprisingly pro-life message: “Life is the most precious thing,” Papa Smurf intones. “We must protect it.”

May young and old alike absorb that bit of Smurf-essence.

The film contains moderately intense action sequences, some slapstick violence and mild scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (June)

A
Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
Admission, L (PG-13)
After Earth, A-III (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
B
The Big Wedding, O (R)
Bullet to the Head, O (R)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)
C
The Call, O (R)
The Croods, A-I (PG)
D
Dead Man Down, O (R)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
E
Epic, A-I (PG)
Evil Dead, O (R)
F
Fast & Furious 6, L (PG-13)
42, A-III (PG-13)
G
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
A Good Day to Die Hard, L (R)
The Great Gatsby, A-III (PG-13)
H
The Hangover Part III, L (R)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, O (R)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
I
Identity Thief, L (R)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)
J
Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)
K
Killer Elite, A-III (R)
L
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
M
Movie 43, O (R)
Mud, A-III (PG-13)
O
Oblivion, A-III (PG-13)
Olympus Has Fallen, L (R)
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, A-I (G)
Oz the Great and Powerful, A-II (PG)
P
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Peeples, O (PG-13)
Phantom, A-III (R)
The Place Beyond the Pines, L (R)
Q
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
R
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, A-III (R)
Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)
S
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
Skyfall, A-III (PG-13)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)
Star Trek Into Darkness, A-III (PG-13)
T
21 and Over, O (R)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)
W
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)