Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) has become a world renowned racer, leaving his days a crop duster behind. When he learns an irreplaceable part of his engine is damaged, however, it looks like his racing days could be suddenly over. On top of that, because of his carelessness, the fact that their airport isn’t up to code in the fire safety department is called attention to and his town of Propwash Junction could be completely closed down. It looks like there are some changes in store for our flying ace.
Like the first Planes, a Disney toons spinoff of Pixar’s Cars franchise, Fire & Rescue boasts an impressive cast. The new and returning voice talent includes Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Julie Bown, Teri Hatcher, Ed Harris, Wes Studi, Fred Willard, Cedric the Entertainer, Patrick Warburton, Hal Holbrook, Brad Paisley, and of course John Ratzenberger and others. The animation, also like the last film, is less impressive. Not up to par with actual Pixar films, it’s not offensive to the eyes, but certainly looks cheap. The 3D especially looks lazy, slapped on with almost no thought so it is barely noticeable. Out of the numerous flight sequences, it’s only used effectively in one or two, along with the end credits – if your kids will stay seated through them.
The story, however, is a step up from the last effort. And by a step up, I mean it’s as if those involved actually cared about what they were making. It’s still nothing spectacular, and probably doesn’t deserve a theatrical release, but still there seems to have been some thought put into it. There are even some rather clever vehicle pun based jokes throughout such as references to Howard the Duck (Howard the Truck) and CHiPS (CHoPS). There’s enough here to make sure adults don’t want to scoop their brains out with a spatula at least. The franchise still, however, can’t get past creating characters out of stereotypes – racial or otherwise. At least it’s not as rampant as in the previous film.
With racing out of the picture, and the town in need of an additional firefighter, Dusty travels across the country to be trained by the best – a fire fighting chopper named Blade Ranger (Harris). With Blade and his team of air-based firefighters and ground based Smokejumpers, Dusty learns just what bravery and responsibility mean as they battle to save Piston Peak national park and its visitors from a raging wildfire.
This is blatantly a feature length PSA for fire safety and the bravery of firefighters. Not that there is anything wrong with that – the messages are welcome, but it will come across as a bit heavy handed to the more discerning of audiences. Kids probably won’t notice. It’s a valid diversion for the youngest crowd that’s a step above it’s predecessor, but still likely to be quickly forgotten.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Two out of five hats
Planes: Fire & Rescue flies into 3,826 theaters in 2D and 3D July 18