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Five Views: Planes: Fire & Rescue

July 18, 2014

Fire & Rescue Poster

Planes: Fire & Rescue – A Walt Disney Pictures Release

http://movies.disney.com/planes-fire-and-rescue
Release Date: July 18th, 2014
Rated G for action and some peril
Running time: 84 minutes

Roberts Gannaway (dir.)

Jeffrey M. Howard (characters)

Mark Mancina (music)

Dane Cook as Dusty Crophopper (voice)
Ed Harris as Blade Ranger (voice)
Julie Bowen as Lil’ Dipper (voice)
Curtis Armstrong as Maru (voice)
John Michael Higgins as Cad (voice)
Hal Holbrook as Mayday (voice)
Wes Studi as Windlifter (voice)
Brad Garrett as Chug (voice)
Teri Hatcher as Dottie (voice)
Stacy Keach as Skipper (voice)
Cedric the Entertainer as Leadbottom (voice)
Danny Mann as Sparky (voice)

Fire & Rescue

©Walt Disney Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) in Planes: Fire & Rescue.

Our reviews below:

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Planes: Fire & Rescue Review By John Corrado

**1/2 (out of 4)

This might sound like faint praise, but Planes: Fire & Rescue is actually a better movie than Disney’s financially successful but thoroughly middle of the road Pixar spinoff from last year.  Don’t get me wrong, this is still a film made squarely to entertain kids young enough to tug on the arms of their parents to take them to the toy store afterwards.  But this sequel at least works better at what it sets out to do, providing harmless entertainment and even excitement to the youngest of moviegoers.

After fulfilling his dreams of becoming a racer, modest crop duster Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) is feeling the wear and tear of flying fast on his gear box.  When he burns out and accidentally causes a fire that gets their town of Propwash Junction shut down, he decides to get outfitted with water tanks and become a firefighter.  Stationed near Piston Peaks National Park, home to a popular tourist resort run by the sleazy Cad (John Michael Higgins) who cares more about making money than keeping vehicles safe, Dusty finds his true purpose dousing forest fires and protecting campers.

Making money was obviously a driving factor behind the choice to start this franchise in the first place, and in a summer strapped for children’s entertainment, Disney will surely reap the financial rewards of Planes: Fire & Rescue from both the box office and inevitable toy sales.  The sometimes stereotyped characters are still pretty derivative with few plot points that we don’t see coming, and adults will likely find their attention wandering throughout the simplistic and largely predictable story.

But Planes: Fire & Rescue is also a step up from the first film in pretty much every way, and we can at least be thankful for that.  The animation is better, the set pieces are more engaging, and the story does get points for providing a heartfelt tribute to real life firefighters, with some authentic and even stirring scenes amidst the blazes.  As a whole, this sequel is more well intentioned in a way that the first film wasn’t, which is certainly a step in the right direction for the inevitable third instalment.

Sitting near me at the screening of Planes: Fire & Rescue, there was a little boy clutching a flashing and talking toy airplane, that kept going off during the movie.  This is the age Planes: Fire & Rescue is made for, and anyone who is too old to bring toys to the theatre might not be equally engaged.  But kids who still carry around their plastic counterparts of the characters are guaranteed to love the film, and I can’t really argue with that.

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Planes: Fire & Rescue Review By Erin V.

**1/2 (out of 4)

A sequel to the 2013 film Planes (itself a Disney-made spinoff of Pixar’s Cars world), Planes: Fire & Rescue tells the story of Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), who after winning a huge around the world race in the first film now is becoming certified as a fire-fighting plane in order to meet a requirement to have an extra firefighter at his own local Propwash Junction airport.  The opening scenes of the film feel really ordinary and very pedestrian – it seems like they are trying to do their own Radiator Springs thing with Propwash Junction, but it falls way short.

Once the film gets to the firefighting training base though, things pick up.  The rest of the film is focused on fighting forest fires and Dusty’s journey to become a firefighter.  Real firefighters were used as consultants on the film and the forest fire scenes are quite well done, with good animation and the planes using real techniques to fight the flames.  There is a real sense of peril here – if you are under 10.  The kids in the theatre seemed genuinely invested at the scary moments, although for the adults in the audience, it is very clear exactly where the film is going to end up.

I’ll be honest.  At times, I was bored, especially early on.  As an adult I recognize that I am not the target demographic for this film.  It is predictable to the level that it seems practically written with each beat obviously falling precisely where it should be and stereotyped one-note characters.

In particular I found the characters of Lil’ Dipper (Julie Bowen) and Windlifter (Wes Studi) to be extremely one-note.  While all the characters fulfill a stereotype/archetype, they seemed to fulfill more positive ones (hero, mentor, etc.) than these two.  Sure Dipper is starstruck by Dusty at the beginning, but as a professional working with him as a firefighter she honestly never moves beyond squealing at him every time he appears?  And does Windlifter really have to only speak in hard to understand quotes?  It’s screenwriting shortcuts to creating characters like these that never allow the film to become more interesting – because we can’t really relate to these one-note characters.

Overall, for a summer film, I’d rather see parents bring little kids to this than anything else out in theatres right now.  Certainly for the under 6-8 crowd, this is really the only film that is completely appropriate for them.  But for older audiences looking for flying scenes in 3D, find a theatre playing HTTYD 2Planes: Fire & Rescue is an improvement on the first instalment, but is consistently afraid to take the risk and push the engine into the red.

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Planes: Fire & Rescue Review By Nicole

**1/2 (out of 4)

Families will remember the first Planes movie, where Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) beat the odds to become a race plane.  In this adventure, Dusty breaks his gear box, and no replacement can be found.  It seems like the end of racing for him.  Things get worse when a small fire breaks out in his airpark.  They only have an old firetruck, not enough for a big emergency.  To save the airpark, Dusty sets off to train with the forest fire fighting planes at Piston Peaks National Park.  There he makes new friends, and must work together to save the tourists.

Planes: Fire & Rescue adds a new element to the vehicular Cars and Planes worlds.  The animation is sharper than the first film, and the storyline is a bit stronger too.  There are many fun firefighting sequences, some of which may frighten very small children.  Parents may also be aware of Windlifter (Wes Studi), who perpetuates First Nation stereotypes.  But overall, Planes: Fire & Rescue will appeal to the 6-10 range, and is entertaining enough for adults too.  I especially liked the deer trucks and balsa wood birdplanes.  Airplane and firefighting fans of all ages will really enjoy this film.

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Planes: Fire & Rescue Review By Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

Last summer, DisneyToon Studios released Planes, a followup of sorts to the popular Disney/Pixar Cars franchise.  Younger children in particular took to Planes in a big way, so for those who can’t get enough of talking airplanes, Planes: Fire & Rescue is here to save the summer and give young ones a movie they can call their own.

Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) is still every planes idol back in Propwash Junction, as he continues to win flying races.  But all that changes in an instant when his mechanic Dottie (Teri hatcher) diagnoses a failing gearbox after Dusty crashes into a building and starts a fire at the airpark.  Propwash’s firetruck Mayday (Hal Holbrook) realizes their little airpark is ill-equipped to handle bigger fires.  When the TMST (Transportation Safety) threatens to shut them down until they meet fire safety regulations, Dusty does the honourable thing and wings up to become an aerial firefighter.

Dusty flies off to Piston Peaks National Park to train with the experienced helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), and his dedicated team of forest firefighters including Lil’ Dipper (Julie Bowen) and obviously Native ‘copter Windlifter (Wes Studi).  Dusty’s flying skills are put into use right away, as forest fires are only a lightning strike or unattended campfire away.

It’s the forest fire sequences that makes this Planes sequel a couple of notches above the original.  Fire fighting techniques and the perils involved are shown realistically.  The fire scenes rise above the cuteness of the rest of the film and show enough action and good animation to keep older kids and adults engaged.  There is one nighttime fire sequence that is particularly well done.

Overall, Planes: Fire & Rescue pays fine tribute to the firefighting teams across North America who protect our beautiful forests.  Children who love airplanes will love this film.  There is an inherent cute factor to the talking vehicle that appeals to a lot of kids, and one little guy at the screening I attended sat clutching his toy Dusty airplane as he watched.  The under-fives were predictably talking through the movie with cries of “oh no!” when scarier things were happening onscreen suggesting they were following the story.

Planes: Fire & Rescue is a good choice for families wanting something younger children can appreciate.  Yes, it will play just as well on disc at home, but sometimes an outing at the movies with a bucket of popcorn is just what a family needs.  That’s what summer memories are made of.

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Planes: Fire & Rescue Review By Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

Planes: Fire & Rescue is a sequel to last year’s Planes, in which the crop-dusting plane Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) became a famous long distance racer.  This has placed too much strain on his engine, and with replacement parts unavailable, he pursues a new career fighting forest fires at Piston Peak Park under the training of chief helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris). The team also includes the flirtatious water bomber Dipper (Julie Bowen), resourceful forklift mechanic Maru (Curtis Armstrong) and spiritual native copter Windlifter (Wes Studi). The good voice cast is rounded out by the old fire truck Mayday (Hal Holbrook), sleazy park superintendent Cad (John Michael Higgins), cabinet minister (Fred Willard), and a sweet old camper van couple, Harvey and Winnie (Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara).

The Planes films come from DisneyToon Studios, with the bulk of the visuals outsourced to India’s Prana Studios, using Maya animation software developed here in Toronto. Though not in the same league as Pixar features, they are produced by John Lasseter and inspired by his own Cars films in their creation of vehicle characters. I found the original Cars brilliant and even liked Cars 2, though most critics have dismissed them as blatant toy generators.

Of course, the same criticism faces the Planes films even more. Though they are clearly aimed at children with simpler stories and broader humour, the aerial sequences are well done and the fires here provide added excitement. Adults may also be amused by the typical punning references to popular culture including a 70s/80s cop show, but I am not sure the native character was as favourably depicted as its distinguished Cherokee voice actor hoped.

In summary, Planes: Fire & Rescue is a good choice for families with young children. For those on a budget, the 2D version will be just fine. In most cases where I have seen both, the differences between 2D and 3D have little impact on the overall enjoyment of a film, particularly for little kids. At any rate, in either format it will be a good choice for the home market, where it can be repeatedly enjoyed by all ages.
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Consensus: Although the simplistic story is predictable and geared towards the youngest members of the audience, Planes: Fire & Rescue improves on the first film, with better animation and some more engaging firefighting sequences. **1/2 (out of 4)

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