Review by Stuart O'Connor
Stars the voices of Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Hal Holbrook, Wes Studi, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Stacy Keach, Barry Corbin, Jerry Stiller, John Ratzenberger, Erik Estrada
Written by Jeffrey M Howard
Certification UK U | US PG
Runtime 83 minutes
Directed by Roberts Gannaway
The first Planes really wasn't much chop (or even much chopper). It's fair to say that this sequel is a vast improvement, although it doesn't really take off and reach the heights that one would hope for.
The first film introduced us to Dusty Crophopper (Cook), who pretty much does what it says on the tin – he's a plane, and he's a cropduster. He has delusions of grandeur, and dreams of being a racing plane – and (spoiler alert) he ends up winning the Wings Around The World race. He's now a big star, but of course fate steps in to hamper his racing career – he has a faulty gearbox, which is rare and out of stock so it cannot be replaced, and he can't fly at top speed any more. To make matters worse his airfield, Propwash Junction, looks like being closed down because it doesn't meet the fire code, so Dusty heads off to Piston Peak for training from the fire and rescue team there.
The rest of the film is predictable, but certainly entertaining enough for younger viewers. Dusty is trained by Blade Ranger (Harris), the crusty, no-nonsense helicopter who heads the rescue operation in the national park. He meets Lil’ Dipper (Bowen), who develops a lil' crush on our Dusty. (We even get a nice cameo from Estrada in a lovely sendup of his old TV show CHiPs.) Our hero gets his training, makes a few mistakes, learns a lesson or two and ultimately saves the day (of course). The humour os sporadic, and much of it corny. The Planes live in the same world as Pixar's Cars, so a certain amount of disbelief suspension is required – such as, why would planes take a train up to a mountain resort? Why do they even need hotel rooms in the first place? And who digs up and refines the oil for their fuel?
Planes: Fire & Rescue comes from DisneyToon Studios, which mostly produces direct-to-video fare such as the TinkerBell films. It's not a terrible film, and has some genuinely terrific animation - particularly in the flying sequences – but not quite up there with the family greats we get from Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios (which made last year's smash-hit Frozen). But the younger kids are sure to love it.