"Planes: Fire & Rescue"
Release Date: July 18, 2014
Running Time: 83 minutes
Up in the air or down on the ground, DisneyToon Studios’ Planes felt less like a spin-off than a reversed-engineered version of Cars. Its equally slight but entertaining sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue, benefits by tearing up the blueprint director John Lasseter used for both his Pixar racecar operas to become the animated disaster movie that Towering Inferno producer Irvin Allen never made. In Fire & Rescue, Wings Across the Globe champ Dusty Crophopper can now race with his eyes shut. When his gearbox is damaged beyond repair, and a replacement cannot be found, the Dane Cook-voiced former crop duster gives up the racing life to train as a fire and rescue aircraft. Like Planes, much of Fire & Rescue finds Dusty in training or learning on the job. The difference in Fire & Rescue, though, is that Dusty isn’t in it for the glory. He finds himself in many life-or-death situations whenever wildfires threaten to destroy the vast forestland that is his training ground. Fire & Rescue director Roberts Gannaway manages to make these moments as tense as possible without making them too scary for any preadolescents to abandon their dream to become a firefighter when they grow up. Dusty’s change of scenery works wonders for Fire & Rescue—it allows this spin-off to forge its own path while exploring deeper into the human-less world Lasseter created with Cars. With a script credited to Jeffrey M. Howard, Fire & Rescue further distinguishes itself from its predecessors by working in a few amusing pop-cultural references that will definitely zoom over the heads of kids unfamiliar with 1970s movie stars and TV shows. However marvelous the computer-animation may be, anthropomorphic vehicles aren’t all that intriguing, so it’s down to the voice cast to bring some personality to Fire & Rescue, as their peers did with Cars. Cook lends Dusty the same bland earnestness in Fire & Rescue as he did in Planes, but the likes of Julie Bowen, Brad Garrett, Wes Studi, Fred Willard, and John Michael Higgins add some pep and color to the heroic endeavors. As the voice of Dusty’s training supervisor, the helicopter Blade Ranger, the no-nonsense Ed Harris gamely accepts the role of the prickly but kindly mentor, a task that fell to Paul Newman and Stacy Keach in Cars and Planes, respectively. Having moved away from the race circuit, at least for Fire & Rescue, it would be a good idea if this franchise also jettisoned its fatigued mentor-protégé subplot in future installments. Dusty’s done everything he needs to prove he’s his own plane.
Aired: July 17, 2014
Web site: http://movies.disney.com/planes-fire-and-rescue