Planes: Fire & Rescue
Planes: Fire & Rescue
Director: Roberts Gannaway
Writer: Jeffrey M. Howard
Voice Cast: Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, John Michael Higgins, Hal Holbrook, Wes Studi, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Stacy Keach, Cedric the Entertainer, Danny Mann, Barry Corbin, Regina King, Anne Meara
Synopsis: When Dusty learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he joins a forest fire and rescue unit to be trained as a firefighter.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for action and some peril |
4 / 10
- Great cinematography
- 3-D imagery was excellent
- CGI animation was fairly decent
- Backgrounds look very detailed and realistic
- The film is friendly for newcomers to this franchise, so you don't need to see the first film to understand what's going on.
- Voice acting was decent.
- Dusty is still a likable character
- Dusty's new obstacle to overcome was interesting, but it's ruined by the happy cliched ending they give us.
- Script is literally a rip off of everything Disney did in the first "Planes" film, with a few scenario changes here and there.
- Old side characters are replaced with new ones that have little to no personality.
- Characters are poorly written
- Blade Ranger is a rip off of Skipper
- New stalker fan girl love interest is more creepy and weird than she is charming and funny
- The stereotypical Hollywood cliche ending to Dusty's story arc ruins the noble sacrifice he made earlier in the film.
- The animation for the characters are a bit downgraded to where they look like plastic talking toys flying around in a realistic setting.
- Jokes aren't funny
- Bad car and plane puns get old
When others fly out, heroes fly in.
There's something to be said about the brave firefighters that risk their lives daily to save others. Like police officers and military soldiers, they're vastly underpaid for the work they do, and many of them don't get the recognition they deserve. In a way, I'm surprised Disney would make an animated feature dedicated to the firefighters of today, as it's even stated before the actual feature begins, in a black screen message. Sure, it's a very sweet gesture that I'm sure will make any firefighter feel flattered, but does that mean "Planes: Fire and Rescue" is any good?
If by good you mean producing a mediocre movie that rehashes of many of the previous film's story arcs, while presenting mostly bland and uninteresting side characters, then you could definitely say that. Sadly, this film falls short in so many areas that it's hard to decide where to start. However, before I start my review, I'll briefly talk about the story first.
The sequel essentially takes place a few months after the first "Planes" film. Dusty Crophopper is now a world renowned sky racing champion. His friends love him. Life is good for him, but he ends up hurting himself one day while doing a practice run with a friend of his. Sadly, his gearbox is busted, so he can't speed up to his maximum limit anymore, or else he'll crash. I guess saying he could crash and die would've been too graphic for a Disney cartoon, but I'm sure many readers will get the gist of it. Long story short, Dusty's racing career is over...at least it seems that way.
Without giving away too much, Dusty decides to become a firefighter after a series of events. Like the first movie, he's met with a lot of new friends that try to help him in his new venture, while you have a stern trainer that gives him a hard time. But in a similar way to the last movie, this trainer warms up to him as well, after we learn about his tragic past.
If you've seen the last movie, then you should know exactly how this one plays out, as it's literally the same damn plot. Just replace Dusty's dream of becoming a racer with him yearning to be a firefighter, and you pretty much have the exact same story arc from the last movie. A basic underdog story about a character trying to prove himself, while overcoming some personal issue holding him back from his full potential.
In the last movie, it was his fear of heights that kept him from living up to his potential, as it was a phobia that he would have to eventually learn to overcome if he wanted to succeed. In this movie, it's both physical and psychological than anything else. Dusty wants to become a firefighter, but he doesn't want to push himself too hard in fear that his gearbox will give out on him.
Although, I have to admit the problem Dusty has to overcome in this movie does give the story a bit more weight than him overcoming a phobia. This one actually gives real gravitas to the story, and it literally makes his heroic act around the end all the more meaningful; considering what was at stake. Sadly, this noble act of heroism and sacrifice gets subverted by possibly one of the cheesiest spoon fed happy endings that you can possibly imagine. I won't spoil it for readers, but it ruins arguably the best part about this whole damn feature that it's sickening.
However, as I mentioned before in my review of the first movie that an animated film can get away with being predictable and cheesy at times, as long as the characters were well developed and likable. Sadly, this film suffers from the exact same flaws that the first one had, but it's a bit worse if you can imagine that.
Don't get me wrong, Dusty Crophopper is still an interesting protagonist, as he's still portrayed as being the all around average nice guy that we're supposed to root for. He comes off as confident without ever being cocky. Yet, he can still show signs of being vulnerable without ever feeling like a whiner. He's fine, and even though his story arc is almost exactly the same as it was in the previous one, it was still entertaining to watch on the big screen.
Sadly, it's the supporting characters that turn out to be the problem. As many of you can probably tell from the trailers, most of the side characters, from the previous one, are gone with no explanation as to why. And, it seems like they've been replaced with a bunch of new characters, but none of them are remotely interesting or likable.
You have a Native American character by the name of Windlifter (Wes Studi), who comes off as being bland and forgettable. Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) is basically nothing more than a carbon based rip off of Skipper from the last film. Granted, their backstories are different, but their personalities are exactly the same, as you'd swear they were the same damn character.
Dusty's love interest from the first movie is now replaced with a stalker-esque crazy fangirl firefighter named Lil Dipper (Julie Bowen), who has something of a huge crush on him. Although the feeling is hardly mutual, that doesn't stop her from throwing herself at Dusty at every opportunity she gets. Hell, she even watches him sleep via "Edward Cullen" style that it can come off as a bit creepy.
Granted, she's a lot more entertaining to watch than Dusty's last love interest that was basically only there to serve as his de- facto love interest. However, in this one, it seems like her role was mainly played up to not only be a love obsessed fangirl of Dusty, but to provide a bit of comedic relief. Sadly, she's not that funny, but you have to applaud Disney for trying give us a different heroine that has some semblance of a personality; unlike Dusty's last love interest.
Overall, all the characters aren't really that engaging that it makes the film almost kind of boring to watch. The jokes aren't really that funny. The bad plane and car puns tend to get old really fast, and it doesn't help that the story is extremely predictable either.
Sure, you can tell the voice actors are trying their best. Would I say this is some of the best voice acting work that I've heard before? Not exactly. It's serviceable. It's not bad, but I wouldn't call it great either.
However, one thing I will give "Planes: Fire and Rescue" credit for is that the animation is good. The background throughout the film is simply amazing, as it almost looks photorealistic. As for the character themselves, you can definitely tell Disney took a serious downgrade, in terms of quality, with the look of the characters. Don't get me wrong, they don't look terrible or anything. But, they look like plastic talking toys throughout most of the film that it doesn't look like they fit within that lush detailed world they inhabit.
As for the cinematography, it's great. Next to "Frozen" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2", this probably features some of the best cinematography work that you'll find in an animated feature. Immersing the viewer during some of the intense flight sequences, as it manages to make you feel like you're right there with them during those moments. It's a real treat to watch; especially if you choose to see this in 3-D. Plus, if you've never seen the original one, then the story is set up in such a way that you can still follow it.
Overall, I wouldn't condemn this film as being the worst animated feature that I've ever seen, but it's arguably one of the least inspired. Not only is everything about the film a generic rip off of the last movie, but the poorly written characters, along with the sappy ending, make this movie boring to even watch. I can definitely see kids liking this film because it has a lot of colorful visuals for them to enjoy, but it lacks heavily in terms of substance
If you ask me, I'd recommend just sticking with the first film. Or better yet, I would highly recommend checking out "How to Train Your Dragon 2" or "The Lego Movie" instead, as those are much better movies to watch than this bland uninteresting film.
© 2014 Steven Escareno
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