Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue is surprising and enjoyable
The sequel to Planes, which is a spinoff of the Pixar Cars series, takes a turn away from competitive sport theme of its predecessor. This is what I found the most refreshing aspect of this film. The focus was moved away from competition, and instead on personal growth and helping others. In a big way, this film carried some very good messages, in an entertaining and easily digestible package for children.
I took my 6 year old son to see this film, he found parts to be a little “too exciting” as he put it. I can understand. Parts of the film were surprisingly intense. This can be distressing if you are young enough to worry about the safety of animated sentient aircrafts. He was genuinely concerned about these characters; he didn’t want to see them hurt. I suppose that says something about the character design and animation. Overall, he was very happy with the movie and has since asked to see a real forest fire.
Directed by Robert Gannaway, a Disney veteran this is his first feature film to be released in theatres, all his other films have been direct to video or TV episodes. The overall direction of the story was tight and was very mindful of the subject matter. It appears Gannaway took care to not overly glorify wilderness fire and rescue workers, but to portray them as accurately as possible, including the very real danger they face. It was a fitting tribute, and is sure to inspire a few young filmgoers to pursue an honorable and dangerous profession.
Planes: Fire & Rescue continues to follow now famous racer Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) as he tours the country living his dream. For Dusty, nothing could be better, until his gearbox breaks, and he finds out the replacement part he needs is out of production. When contemplating retiring from the sport he loves more than anything, his home town airport is shut down until they can meet current safety standard for fire safety that say all airports need two firefighting vehicles. Feeling responsible for causing the fire that shut down the airport, Dusty volunteers to go into training to learn to be a Single Engine Air Tanker fire-fighting aircraft. Dusty is soon in training with veteran fire and rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) and his team, super scooper Lil’ Dipper (Julie Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter (Wes Studi), ex-military transport Cabbie (Dale Dye), and all-terrain Smokejumpers Dynamite (Regina King), Pinecone(Corri English), Avalanche (Bryan Callen), Blackout (Danny Pardo), Drip (Matt Jones). The team is rounded out by the mechanical genus; forklift Maru (Curtis Armstrong). Together they help Dusty become much more than a world famous racer, they help him become part of a heroic team.
While the film was somewhat dry in parts there was enough clever humor peppered to keep the adult audience entertained. Unfortunately, there was little during these moments to keep the youngest audience members fully engaged. The second act felt halfhearted at times, but managed to pull together for a rousing finale that made up for the lull in action. Clocking in at less than 90 minutes it was mercifully short. If it was much longer, I fear they would have lost the audience all together. Other than that, for a movie designed to entertain children in an uplifting way this film is a solid bet for parents with an hour and a half to kill.
Planes: Fire & Rescue will keep the kids mostly entertained and engaged while amusing parents with clever and subtle humor. 3 out of 5