Planes: Fire & Rescue Review: For Sizzle My Nizzle
I seem to be in the minority on Disney’s Planes movies. The first film was an innocuous punching bag, a formulaic underdog story that was big on sincerity and low on wit. I liked it. It wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, or even particularly good, but it was a well-constructed exercise in cinematic decency. It sought to inspire good sportsmanship and self-confidence and it succeeded without boring me. That’s an okay movie. It’s certainly better than Rio 2.
The sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue, boasts the same benevolent goals and achieves them in the same rudimentary fashion. Whereas the first Planes followed a cropdusting plane by the name Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) on his journey from underdog to celebrity, the follow-up takes him down a peg and challenges the first film’s notions of heroism. Who the hell cares about racing around the world? Why should any of us look up to celebrities? There are people-slash-planes in the world who risk their lives on a regular basis to protect the helpless. Screw celebrities, seriously. What a bunch of losers.
Amongst the celebrities who show up to sell this message are Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Wes Studi and Hal Holbrook. They play firefighters who train Dusty after his gearbox breaks, forcing him to retire early from the racing circuit. Director Roberts Gannaway is eager to place their forest fire combat techniques in as awesome a context as possible, which is no easy feat considering that they’re all adorable anthropomorphic vehicles. Playing AC/DC in the background doesn’t hurt, unless you start to wonder how AC/DC exists in a world where none of the band members were ever born.
Related: Watch Dane Cook Be a Ninja
Planes: Fire & Rescue teaches Dusty – and by extension, kids everywhere – a valuable lesson about discipline and self-sacrifice. Kind of. In a world where every living person is a car it’s hard to imagine that Dusty’s gearbox would ever go out of production, forcing him to find a new career in the first place. He’s a person. He’s famous. Why wouldn’t someone make him a new one so he could stay alive? The film also doesn’t go quite far enough with Dusty’s celebrity before teaching him a lesson in humility. He’s already pretty darned humble, so his journey to being even more humble doesn’t quite resonate dramatically.
But the basic premise of these Cars movies never made much sense to begin with, and their inherently good nature is arguably their selling point. These movies aren’t intended to challenge, they’re intended to preach positive values and make silly puns. (“Boat Reynolds” shows up at one point, I shift you not.) Planes: Fire & Rescue continues in that tradition with an uncomplicated but uplifting kids story that celebrates true heroism over superficial fame. It’s not boring. It’s actually kind of fun. It’s just too bad that it never completely takes flight.