If there’s one thing that’s a certainty with Disney these days, it’s that they do love an animated sequel. Created in abundance during the early nineties, with mostly unnecessary follow-ups to Aladdin, The Lion King and even Brother Bear, Disney have enjoyed some huge success with series, the majority making their debut as part of their very successful straight-to-video campaigns. Recently, however, many of their biggest films (predominantly from Pixar) have started to get theatrical sequels. Roberts Gannaway’s Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014) – a spin-off from the aforementioned Pixar’s Cars universe – is a decent enough film for young fans, but feels appropriate to its new home, on DVD, than the multiplex.
Fire & Rescue sees our likable hero Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) fresh from his triumphs in the world of plane racing. Such was the demand on his engine through those races, however, that his brakes are now all but useless, and he’s forced to give us his life’s dream. Redemption comes after the local airfield’s fire engine is told he’s too old to continue. Dusty suggests he help out, travelling across the country to train under renowned rescue plane Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), Dusty-obsessed Dipper (Julie Bowen) and Windlifter (Wes Studi), as he tries to become a certified firefighter. What is apparent here is that, for a sequel to a film that wasn’t particularly strong begin with, this is a far more enjoyable experience – the focus shifting from the still alluring flight sequences to dangerous rescue missions.
This newest adventure has plenty of energy and peril, and keeps the action moving along briskly. In addition, there are enough ‘life lessons’ (what it means to be a friend, when to put others ahead of yourself) to keep kids educated and entertained in equal measure. For adults, meanwhile, there are several laughs that should, at the very least, get the giggles going – particularly in its amusing spoofing of the cult seventies TV show Chips (Erik Estrada lending his vocal talents) – a well as a handful of decent pop-culture references. Harris, Bowen and the always reliable John Michael Higgins add some great humour to proceedings, while their vocal work is of typically high quality. Though it won’t be troubling any of Disney’s true classics, Planes: Fire & Rescue is a forgivable new entry in a clearly bankable series.
This review was originally published for theatrical release on 7 August 2014.
Scott Davis | @sjdavis_1982