I once had a writing professor tell me that no successful pieces of fiction are more than 50% original – there has to be some level of familiarity for a story to resonate with anyone. So naturally, by that logic, something that is 100% recycled and generic should be twice as good as something that’s only 50% familiar, right? Well, as ludicrous as that line of thinking may be, I can’t help but to think that was what crossed the mind of everyone wearing a producer’s hat for Wings.
The film tells the story of a plane named Ace (Josh Duhamel), who ends up accidentally finding out about an open spot on a competitive flying team. With only a short time to go until the major competition, he’s sent out for training, but ends up at a retirement home for those flying machines that can’t quite stay up anymore. There he meets a grumpy old flying coach named Colonel who has been living as a hermit for a year, and with the help of a feathered friend, Ace has to convince Colonel to train him if he’s going to have any chance at being ready in time for the air show.
Now, it’s obvious that story is an attempt at replicating the success of Disney’s Cars, or more directly Planes, which is not a huge deal. We’ve seen plenty of stories rehashed over the years, and there’s no worse culprit than the family film industry. I don’t go into these movies expecting something revolutionary, nor should I have to. These are productions tailored to audience members who haven’t seen that many movies and don’t yet have the mental capacity to enjoy something too much more complex. That being said, the best family films are the ones that children enjoy as children and then enjoy even more as adults. Unfortunately, that will not be the case with Wings.
The story isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just far too safe. It’s the same thing that we’ve seen a million times over, and there’s not even the slightest effort to bring anything fresh into the picture. The adventure is generic, the characters are all cookie-cutter and the love story is somehow even worse than the traditional formula. The result of those mediocre parts is a completely forgettable plot from start to finish. It’s the sort of story that won’t stick with you any amount of time after the credits roll, not necessarily because of any glaring problems, but merely because of the lack of substance.
There’s never any suspense to the story, either. Never the slightest hint that the villain (who’s really more of a bully) will find a way to win. I know we don’t want the terrifying risk of a plane crashing in a giant fireball, but it’d be nice if there was at least something to infuse a bit of intrigue into the story. Still, even without any thrilling scenes, the plot might feel more compelling if we had a reason to care about the characters.
Speaking of the characters, there’s never any development for Ace. It seems that the writers were relying on familiarity with him by making him into a small-town guy with big dreams, rather than doing any work of their own. Instead of giving audiences a new character to love, the film is saddled with a protagonist that’s pretty hard to connect with. As is true with the rest of the movie, it isn’t because there’s any reason to dislike him, but rather because there’s no reason to feel any way about him at all.
As for the voice acting, it isn’t bad, but it really isn’t that great either. The beauty of animation is that it gives voice actors the ability to let loose. Though a few of the characters have the potential to be funny here, there really isn’t any humor to be found. It’s almost as if they had to try to leach the humor out of this one. After all, we have a bird who spends his days hanging out with airplanes and fearing other birds. It’s an amusing concept, and in the hands of most writers or a more adventurous voice actor, it would have been the source of plenty of laughs. As it stands though, he’s just another on the long list of blandly-voiced characters.
Even considering the less comedic characters in the film (though in this sort of movie, everyone should be somewhat funny), there’s just nothing memorable about any of the vocal performances. They’re all just people reading their lines—no one takes a risk and fails because no one takes any risks at all.
While the acting and story have some redeemable qualities, I can’t say the same for the animation. Wings is a prime example of how cheap computerized characters just can’t stand up to quality animation or hand-drawn characters. I get that the dubbing across multiple languages isn’t always the easiest thing, but it’s distracting to see just how poorly everything syncs up. I’m no animator, but I imagine that since planes are lacking in features, they’d likely be a lot easier to animate than a person or even an animal. In this case, playing it safe by characterizing something that should be easy to animate doesn’t pay off.
The past few years have been great ones for family films, but those memorable movies had something fresh that made them stand out. Wings falls short in its attempt to replicate and capitalize on everything that made those films great. With its lack of originality and its unwillingness to take chances, there’s really no reason to recommend this one.
Wings is now available on DVD, Video On Demand and Pay-Per-View.
Wings plays it safe at every turn, and the result is an utterly forgettable family film.