In Planes, the latest Walt Disney animated flick, a young crop duster named Dusty (Dane Cook) dreams of becoming a racing plane, and ends up in the Wings Around The World competition, up against the likes of the multi-race winner Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith), the lovely female planes Rochelle (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Ishani (Priyanka Chopra), and the comic relief, Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui). He’s mentored by the aged warrior Skipper Riley (Stacy Keach) and aided by his friends (Terri Hatcher and Brad Garrett). It’s typical Disney stuff, but it’s the best we’ve seen since Tangled in 2010.
While Brave may have looked better and Cars 2 had bigger names voicing its characters, Planes has a purity of heart and a steady stream of action that’s better than anything I’ve seen lately from the Mouse (yes, I’m definitely including Wreck-It Ralph and no, I haven’t seen Monsters University yet). Dusty wants to be more and do more, and it’s not just imagination, it’s recognizing potential in himself that others can’t (or won’t) see. Yes, he’s a duster, but he also has aspirations, hopes, and dreams that aren’t just fantastic, they’re actually attainable.
But Planes isn’t just about the dream; it’s also about those who help us get there. Dusty needs to learn how to fly faster not just fly, and he must recognize that he can fly higher than he believes he can. Dusty is afraid of heights (I’m right there with you, buddy) and his love of flight is challenged by that fear. There’s nothing quite like knowing what you’re called to do (preach) and struggling with the inadequacies of the situation (young age, lack of public speaking practice) that have to be overcome with time, practice, and mentoring.
It’s the mentoring that stands out from Planes. Skipper doesn’t give Dusty magical advice and then fade, the way that say the Cheshire Cat or that the Fairy Godmother blows in and leaves quickly. Skipper’s stories (another interesting strain throughout the film) prove to inspire Dusty, but there’s a strong element of the older, past-prime flyer investing in the youthful one, who holds so much promise. Mentoring is certainly an investment in our future, and it’s a Biblical principle that we shouldn’t lose sight of. Throughout Scripture, the wise are called to teach the young, the partnerships of friendship and mission are intwined, and the yoking of two workers is evident.
Dusty’s personality also shows a Biblical element, the “farm life” of “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” It “pays it forward” right back to him in several ways, but it’s an important lesson for us to be examining for ourselves and our children: it’s impossible to miss here. Planes doesn’t shrink from this obvious lesson, and it plays out powerfully several ways: no one is “too small” to be important, too trivial to be treated with respect. Seriously, what would happen if we actually lived our lives that way?