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Planes: Fire & Rescue (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

Planes: Fire and Rescue

Planes: Fire and Rescue


Featuring the voices of Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Danny Mann, Julie Bowen, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Curtis Armstrong, Ed Harris, Wes Studi, John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, Hal Holbrook, Teri Hatcher, Stacy Keach, Cedric the Entertainer, Barry Corbin, Regina King, 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, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.

Screenplay by Jeffrey M. Howard.

Directed by Bobs Gannaway.

Distributed by Walt Disney Films.  83 minutes.  Rated PG.

Planes: Fire & Rescue takes place in the world of Pixar’s Cars, but it is no longer Pixar and it really is very little like Cars.

In, fact, if anything, Planes: Fire & Rescue is more of a light action film than the light comic love story/underdog victory mold of Cars, or even the first Planes movie.

In fact you know from the beginning that the film is flying off in a totally different direction when the film begins with a title card honoring the firefighters who put their lives on the line to save others.

Of course, if you had seen the first Planes movie, you may be wondering where the fire stuff came from.  Wasn’t it about an old crop duster turned racing plane?  It was, but Planes: Fire & Rescue is more like a very, very light version of a mostly forgotten old Steven Spielberg film called Always.

Which is probably for the best.  While Always wasn’t a great film, it was certainly better than the first Planes.  And the whole idea of downplaying the old racing milieu, which had already worn out its welcome in Cars, Cars 2 and Planes, is probably a good choice.

So instead of replaying that whole storyline yet again, Planes: Fire & Rescue takes on the much more visually-arresting and thematically-deep subject of forest fire fighting.

Oh, it starts out with the racing.  Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook, of all people) is still enjoying the celebrity of his big racing win in the first Planes film.  But when flying a follow up race, he starts to sputter.  Turns out he has damaged his gear box and the part is no longer made.  Therefore, if he tries to go all out in a race, he will probably crash.

Bereft from his short-term career and celebrity, Dusty takes a job as a forest-fire-fighter.  He assumes that he will never have to work at his new craft and be exposed as being injured, but of course soon after the entire area becomes a raging inferno.

And that is pretty much all that happens for the rest of the film.  The cars, trucks and planes of the area band together to fight off the pernicious fire, which is encroaching on more and more of their land.  Meanwhile, an evil politician refuses to let visitors in a new (all wood) resort know of the impending danger.

The firefighting scenes are both spectacular (the background artwork of this project is head and shoulders over the first Planes) and disappointing (at any given time, the firefighters are only able to douse very small areas in a much bigger fire).

However, through working together to save lives, Dusty discovers what’s really important.  Or something.  The back story is what is really not important.  Nor are the gentle jokes traditional to the Cars and Planes films.

The thing is, in the firefighting scenes, there are some real moments of life and death importance.  The artwork and sense of danger changes this trifling series up and gives it a gravity that it never had before.  It also makes Planes: Fire & Rescue one of those rare occurrences when the sequel is head and shoulders above the original film.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2014 All rights reserved. Posted: November 4, 2014. 

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