Planes: Fire & Rescue
This sequel featuring the voices of Ed Harris and Teri Hatcher improves on the original but still fails to soar
A sequel to Planes, itself a spin-off from the Cars franchise, Planes: Fire & Rescue is a Disney animation aimed at very small children who might appreciate its world of cheerful, chattering vehicles. Adults, however, would do well to stay away, there’s none of the multi-layered appeal of the best of Pixar, Disney or DreamWorks, just colourful, simple-minded entertainment for undemanding mites.
When our airplane protagonist Dusty Crophopper (voiced again by Dane Cook) is forced to give up his racing career due to gearbox issues, he decides to dedicate his time to the socially useful business of protecting holidaymakers, who are regularly endangered by raging forest fires in tinderbox national parks.
Dusty teams up with crusty-but-fair helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) to train for this noble profession; the film opens with a po-faced dedication to all of those brave folks working in the rescue services, as if a minor animation featuring farting tractors might be an appropriate reward for their efforts.
Roberts Gannaway’s film is at least a considerable improvement on 2013’s dismal original, with a more substantial story, a genuine sense of peril, and some choice returning and newly cast vocal talent including Hal Holbrook, Stacy Keach and Teri Hatcher. The animation is never less than clean and tidy, and frequently impresses, particularly in its POV shots as the planes fly into blazing forests, shots which are enhanced by their 3D rendering.
As with the first film, children will be drawn to the bright colours and simple morals, which makes some of the sexual and racial stereotyping on the sidelines rather regrettable. The use of AC/DC’s power-anthem 'Thunderstruck' over an early training montage illustrates the good-ole-boy attitudes and broad, male-orientated humour that flavours the enterprise. This sits awkwardly with the more universal, home-spun values that Planes: Fire & Rescue seems to simultaneously want to encourage.
General release from Fri 8 Aug.