Planes was one of the biggest surprise hits of last year. The film had a rough takeoff from the start. It was originally set to be a a direct to DVD film, Planes then took off to be a feature film, but lost its lead voice, Jon Cryer. Dane Cook was named as his replacement, but that name didn’t inspire confidence. And despite the shoddy animation, and familiar screenplay, Planes worked. It was actually a likeable film.
Since the first film was scheduled on the tail end of the summer blockbuster season, it was a perfect time to cleanse the cinematic pallet, which was burdened with an over saturation of superhero films. And because of that, it was one of Disney’s surprise box office hits. Of course since it was a hit, that would mean it would need a sequel. And now we have Planes: Fire And Rescue, which, again, looked like a tired and old animated film that deserves to be a direct to DVD, but is surprisingly good. Hit the jump for the full review.
Seeing as though Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), a seemingly mildmannered cropduster turned international aerial racer, has already done his worldwide tour in the first film, and done so again within the first few minutes of this film, a sequel about him racing would be a bit redundant. So The sequel has our lead protagonist take fall early. During a training session, Dusty nearly has a career ending grounding, and learns that his damaged engine will prevent him from racing again. Unable to cope with this, Dusty sets out to prove everyone wrong, but ends up crashing and causing a small fire. In order to redeem himself, and save his local airport, Dusty sets off to train to become an aerial firefighter.
Again, while it may not be the best story, considering its been done over and over and over again, but quite honestly, kids probably won’t remember the last movie like Planes: Fire And Rescue, and are probably more interested in the action, firefighting, and rescuing then they are about the exposition or character development, as we have seen twice in the Cars films. And as the Cars films have proven, a vehicular lifeforms that has its own action and comedy and isn’t urinating on a human or killing off its own kind, can prove to be a profitable franchise.
While the film does start off with a semi-somber tone, it is only when we are introduced to the new characters like Dipper (Julie Bowen) a Super Scooper who can retrieve water and put out fires, and Blade (Ed Harris) a rescue helicopter that leads his team of other planes, helicopters, and smokejumpers, does the film really start to take off. So right when you see the fire and rescue team fight a new fire while playing to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” you’ll get the feel of the real tone of the film.
Dusty’s plot of redemption is a nice one, and as aformentioned it has been done before, but the greedy superintendent (John Michael Higgins) who is trying to promote his resort subplot is very unnecessary and only hurts the film. But much of that subplot is an afterthought thanks in part to the film finding a way to focus on Dusty’s training, and the firefighting.
The shocking part of Planes: Fire and Rescue is that it introduces the idea that these characters can die. While that notion has been seen a couple of times before in previous Disney animated films, it doesn’t hit as hard when it is for a film with such a young age demographic. I’m not even sure if the young audience will understand the concept of death, as the characters are talking about it but never really addressing it. While it is a bit of a dark subject to talk about, it does provide some great character insight and allows for great character growth. For as long as Dusty is struggling in the film, he will be inspired by either his own plight or other characters pushing him to be a better plane.
The animation in Planes: Fire And Rescue is much better than its direct to DVD turned full length feature film predecessor. It’s crisp, sharp, and much brighter, and the animation is smoother and isn’t as clunky or incomplete as the first film. There is more feel to the textures as waterfalls feel more misty, fires have more heat, and even the earth itself feels more realistic.
Jeffery Howard‘s script is just about as good as it gets, but is witty in all the right moments, and is ten times better than any of the Cars films. Expect plenty of puns and fart jokes in this sequel, but that doesn’t make it any less fun or enjoyable. For the most part, Planes: Fire and Rescue is enjoyable family fun, and one that makes Smokey the Bear wish he where a vehicular lifeform.