“Characters are one-dimensional archetypes, clearly boasting their celebrity voices more than their personalities”



by Steve Pulaski

The arrival of Disney’s (not Pixar’s) Planes: Fire & Rescue, the sequel to last year’s modest box office hit Planes, comes a lot quicker than most parents, their wallets, and their children anticipated because Planes nor its sequel were ever planned to find themselves in theaters. The series was conceived with direct-to-DVD outlets in mind, with hopes of launching a successful spin-off of the Cars franchise in the DVD market rather than the theatrical market. However, someone decided that the series definitely had high-flying potential, so they propelled the first film in theaters, while already halfway through the production on this sequel, which comes right in the middle of the summer movie season.

Planes: Fire & Rescue exists on the same level of mediocrity as its predecessor, but this time around, since we presumably know the characters and their personalities, what little they have, so most of this film develops on their underlying problems or the action sequences. Unlike the first film, which was a film centered around a globetrotting race, this film is an action-disaster piece, refocusing on the central character of Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook). Dusty was once your average, unremarkable crop-dusting plane that, with extreme ambition and drive, became your extraordinary, high-flying plan that went on to compete in aerial races.

Planes: Fire & Rescue
Directed by
Roberts Gannaway
Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen
Release Date
18 July 2014
Steve’s Grade: D+

Dusty, however, was really never built for longterm flying, which results in his gearbox to eventually give out and become sensitive to lengthy and ambitious periods of high-flying. Dusty winds up slowing things down by visiting a local firehouse, comprised of misfit aerial planes which, in turn, aspires him to make a snappy career change as an aerial firefighter, working on extinguishing wildfires both small and large.

Planes: Fire & Rescue is vaguely reminiscent of the first Cars film in terms of story, although nowhere near as close to it in terms of character and story investment. The film centers around a character who never thought he could belong to a culture other than racing, but instead, takes the slower route and warms up to an entire new breed of people he never foresaw himself fitting in with before.

One notable step-up with Planes: Fire & Rescue is in the animation department, which was sorely lacking from the original Planes. In that film, the animation looked broad and occasionally indistinct, certainly not living up to the standards set forth by animation studios in this day and age. With Fire & Rescue, we are greeted with animation that looks more detailed and landscapes that prove more visually potent than before. Consider when Dusty is soaring over numerous different regions, or when an enormous wildfire is raging through forestry in the final act of the film. All of the animation work finds itself beautifully constructed and visually superior to that of its predecessor. On top of that, the action is a bit more enthralling than that of the first, and thanks to the fact we don’t have to listen to numerous stereotyped characters like in the first one, free of lackluster distractions.

Yet even with the improvements here and there, Planes: Fire & Rescue fails to live up to the ambition and expectations its title and premise immediately set-forth. The characters are one-dimensional archetypes, clearly boasting their celebrity voices more than their personalities, the story and thematic relevance is incredibly weak, and the long-term impact is almost entirely nonexistent, and, as I’ve said before, the target audience in mind has precious time to waste on mediocre, “babysitter” like this one.