Planes: Fire and Rescue (Disney)
Rated PG for action and some peril.
Starring (voices of) Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, John Michael Higgins, Hal Holbrook, Wes Studi, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Stacy Keach, Cedric the Entertainer, Danny Mann, Barry Corbin, Regina King, Anne Meara, Jerry Stiller, Fred Willard, Dale Dye, Matt Jones, Bryan Callen, Danny Pardo, Corri English, Kari Wahlgren, Patrick Warburton, Rene Auberjonois, Kevin Michael Richardson, Erik Estrada, Steve Schirripa, Brent Musburger, John Ratzenberger, Caroline Aaron, Ferrell Barron, Roberts Gannaway, Kate Micucci, Masasa Moyo, Brad Paisley, Fred Tatasciore.
Written by Jeffrey M. Howard.
Directed by Roberts Gannaway.
I have always maintained that the Cars franchise is the weakest artistic link in the Pixar pedigree. The vehicular computer-animated world may not have been a raging success among salty critics like me, but it’s always been a hit among kids – especially boys. Even when Pixar bowed out of the Planes spin-off, Disney cashed in anyway. Such success has spawned a sequel one year later (that was fast).
Dane Cook returns to voice Dusty Crophopper, the little plane who defied the odds and won a global race in the first Planes film. It’s a year later, and Dusty’s fortunes have turned. His “gearbox” is damaged, and there’s no replacement available. Making matters worse is a little fire he caused that will force the closure of his hometown airport, unless there is one more certified firefighter on board.
Hoping to make things right, Dusty travels to “Piston Peak” National Park, where his old pal Skipper (Stacy Keach) has set him up with a fire crew that will get him the training he needs.
The leader of the fire crew is a helicopter named Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), a crusty tactician with little patience for celebrities like Dusty. In the peak of the fire season, Dusty must learn to cope with his failing gearbox, while also learning how to sacrifice himself for others.
Planes: Fire and Rescue is a slight step up from the first in the series. One reason is a story line that offers a little more than clichés (like the worn out “underdog wins big” scenario in the first movie). The result is something a little less narcissistic and more altruistic. Another upgrade in Planes 2 is the great animation of aircraft fighting intense fires.
Dane Cook’s voice still doesn’t seem like a major draw for any age, but he’s serviceable, much like the rest of the voice cast. One other improvement in Planes 2 is the drawback in racial stereotypes seen in the first movie, even though one of the characters named Windlifter (Wes Studi) is a big firefighting helicopter with blades that look like a native American headdress.
All quibbles aside, Planes: Fire and Rescue is a movie made for kids, marketed for kids, and tailor-made for toy sales – but most parents probably won’t mind sitting through the movie.