I didn’t have high expectations for Planes: Fire & Rescue. The original Planes was a retread of Cars, never finding a unique flight path of its own. Fortunately, Planes: Fire & Rescue lets Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) lead a film that soars higher than its predecessor.
Dusty is getting ready for the big Propwash Junction Corn Festival, but soon finds that there is an problem with his gearbox that won’t allow him to race ever again. At the same time, Propwash Junction loses its fire fighting certification and needs a new certified vehicle. Dusty finds a new sense of purpose, and he sets off to Piston Peak National Park to learn to fight fires.
Dusty spends much of his time with Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), who doesn’t understand why Dusty – a well known racer – won’t put the pedal to the metal while fighting forest fires. It puts Dusty at a disadvantage that he cannot fly past a certain speed, and it almost causes tragedy. The landscape and fires are realistic and give a sense of what firefighters go through every day.
Laughs are delivered by several new characters, including Dipper (Julie Bowen), a none-too-shy plane who takes a liking to Dusty the moment he arrives. She puts her “arm” around him during a hilarious viewing of a series similar to CHIPS (Erik Estrada is a voice here as well), and lets Dusty know how much she enjoys “watching” him.
Another new character, Maru (Curtis Armstrong) likes to say that what he fixes is “better than new”. Hal Holbrook plays Mayday, an aging fire truck who “toots” out his siren.
There are some lines that are more for adults than kids. Who knew Chevy could be used as a profanity?
Park Superintendent Cad Spinner (voiced by John Michael Higgins, known to Walt Disney World audiences from the former Test Track intro video) causes turmoil here, he is as close to a villain as the film gets. Only out for himself and the beautiful lodge he is trying to show off, he turns the sprinklers meant to stop a raging forest fire onto the lodge – causing the fire to spread even further into the park, trapping those who he’d hosted at the lodge. Dusty has to help save everyone, including an RV couple celebrating their anniversary (in what is a fairly predictable scene).
Planes: Fire & Rescue clocks in at less than 90 minutes, and is fast-paced. We have seen it twice and enjoyed it quite a lot both times. While it looked like Disney rushed Planes: Fire & Rescue after the modest success of Planes, that wasn’t the case. Through an event we sent a correspondent to at Toon Studios, we learned that the film has been in production for 4 years, with 3 overlapping with the original film. Planes: Fire & Rescue does not have the feel of the first Planes, it is much better and there are lessons here for children and adults. The film is about second chances, finding new significance in your life after hitting a roadblock. But also, Disney worked very closely with firefighters to make the film as real as possible – and hopefully it will teach kids in a new way about the dangers of fire.
Planes: Fire & Rescue is inexplicably rated PG, there is not a lot here that should scare young viewers. There are realistic scenes of fire and some mild innuendo.
Here is our interview with Dane Cook about Planes: Fire & Rescue.
The train in the film was named after John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club and was a preservationist who helped save Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park, both of which Piston State Park in Planes: Fire & Rescue is modeled after.
Mousesteps Grade for Planes: Fire & Rescue – B. We recommend it.
Planes: Fire & Rescue is rated PG (for no apparent reason).