Bentley: Comedian Dane Cook flies clean in 'Disney's Planes'

The Fresno BeeAugust 10, 2013 

Actor Dane Cook arrives on the red carpet of the world premiere of Disney's "Planes" on Monday at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles.

DAN STEINBERG/INVISION

If you've ever seen Dane Cook's stand-up routine, you know that it's not the kind of material that's appropriate for youngsters. That's why it's a little surprising that Cook is one of the voice talents in the new animated offering "Disney's Planes." He speaks for Dusty, a crop duster who dreams of being a racing plane.

Cook says there were no concerns about his mature brand of comedy when he signed on to the project.

"For so many years, I would do meet-and-greets with my fans after the show," Cook says. "And, year after year, I would meet families. Parents would bring their children to my show. Sometimes, it was a little surprising. I would tell them that there's some adult stuff in my act. What I learned from them was that it was OK because there was no malice. My comedy didn't come from a bad place."

Once Cook signed on, he discovered the recording sessions would be different from traditional animation projects. Instead of recording his voice and then animating to those words, most of the movie had been animated with a temporary voice track.

It was up to Cook to re-record the dialogue making sure the mouth movement matched the words.

He says you would think it would be harder than just recording before the animation, but it wasn't.

"I wish I could always do it like that. I got to watch the actual movie while I was recording the voice. That's better than being alone, in a booth, not knowing what the animation would look like. Because I was watching the movie, I could be in the moments with the characters," Cook says. "I was still able to improv in a few scenes because they could go back in and change a mouth movement without having to redo a whole scene."

Sealing the deal

It's interesting to find out just what makes an actor take a role. As much as we would like to think it has everything to do with the love of the art, often the decision is made just because the actor needs work. There are also occasions where the actor wants to work with a certain director or actor.

It was a fowl element that convinced Thomas Lennon to sign on for the new NBC comedy "Sean Saves the World."

"As soon I learned I was going to be playing a person who would go places with a bird on my shoulder, I was in," Lennon says.

You might not immediately recognize Lennon when the series launches in the fall because he's grown a mustache for the role. Lennon knew as soon as he'd grown the mustache that it would be as important to the role as the bird on his shoulder.

He says the mustache makes him look so sinister he doesn't have to do a lot to play a demanding boss.

Lennon may look a little strange with the hair on his upper lip and the bird on his shoulder, but he says to always remember that in his mind, he's playing the role as a mix of "Richard III" and Pepé Le Pew. He hopes that's enough to win him industry accolades.

"I have been in TV my entire (expletive deleted) life. I have to get an Emmy pretty soon. It's been a long haul," Lennon says.

Lennon's career is mostly TV, but he has done several films including the recently released "We're the Millers." There's no mustache or bird, but the feature film gave Lennon a chance to play a character he's come to know very well.

"I tend to always play Sad Sacks," Lennon says. "Once you embrace your myth as an actor, you'll discover you start working a lot more. It also helps if you can grow a creepy mustache. In 'We're the Millers,' I play the saddest, saddest figure I've ever played. That's my specialty these days."

Best part of best new series

One of the best wins at this year's "2013 TCA Awards" was "The Americans" being named best new series.

If you missed the first season of the FX series, track it down. It's the story of a pair of Russian spies who have been living a false life in the United States in the 1980s so that they can do their espionage work.

What makes the show so masterful is the blending of Cold War drama with a strong tale of family. And, star Keri Russell has never been better.

She showed signs of this kind of acting talent in "Felicity" and refined it with works like "Waitress" and "August Rush." It's all been leading to this defining role in her career.

I spot Russell eating a snack before the ceremonies start. She's chatting with two people, so I move to a spot where I can catch her eye. As soon as Russell sees me, I move forward with my hand extended to congratulate her. She moves past the potential handshake and hugs me.

"It's great to see you again," Russell says. She's referring to how in January we sat in the corner of a ballroom at a Ritz-Carlton and talked about the new show.

Russell's excited about the award because the series was a gamble. There were no guarantees a series about Russian spies living in America would attract an audience. It has in a very big way.

I also tell Russell that I have just seen the trailer for her upcoming movie "Austenland," a comedy about a vacation spot built around the writings of Jane Austen. Russell's in town for the awards show and to do interviews for the movie.

She says that the film was made two years ago when she was pregnant.

Not only does the light comedy give her a sharp contrast to the TV series, it was a chance to work with Jennifer Coolidge.

If the film is 1/100th as good as "The Americans," Russell will have another hit on her hands.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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