I didn't have high expectations when I went to see this film. The newspaper reviews were indifferent- a quick "Cars" knockoff to keep Disney's cashflow up.
But I was very pleasantly surprised. The story was a bit predictable - "local boy makes good", the crusty old codger who eventually warms up and helps the kids, etc- but I'd say it worked pretty well.
I know enough about historical aircraft- and aircraft in general- that I appreciated the different planes that were shown in the movie. Thought there were some really interesting choices- the DH88 for example, voiced by John Cleese, the Corsair, by Stacy Keach, and of course a Gee Bee racer, by Carlos Alazraqui. There were enough 'in-jokes' that I was laughing out loud (but according to the kids, I was the only adult laughing...)
I also remember Dusty and Ishani, flying near the Taj Mahal and observing graceful glider- like birds.... lovely image, clever replacement of animals from the "Planes" world to replicate nature.
Had this film come out BEFORE "Cars", I can't help but think it would have got a lot of praise for its animation, technical references, and possibly even its plot. Is it a bit too derivative of "Cars"? Maybe, but "Cars" was a difficult film to top- look at the reviews its sequel got.
As a film for kids- and adults with an interest- I'd give it 4 stars.