Disney’s “Planes: Fire & Rescue” isn’t half bad. Kids should enjoy it and their parents won’t be bored.
The airborne offspring of the “Cars” cartoon franchise has now spawned the second chapter in the adventures of Dusty Crophopper (voiced again by Dane Cook), the plucky plane who rose — literally — from humble beginnings as a lowly crop duster to the dizzying heights of championship air racing. But as someone once said somewhere, what goes up must … well, you know.
With his poor old gearbox all worn out from too much high-speed zoom-zoom and with that critical component now long out of production, Dusty’s days atop the air-race hierarchy are over. He needs a new start, new goals, a new less-stressful and slower-paced gig. How about firefighting?
Well all right, firefighting most definitely is not less stressful. But it certainly makes for some very impressive computer-generated sequences of pulsing flamescapes seen from high altitudes as air tankers and smokejumper carriers pirouette through the skies above the infernos.
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Curiously, though the picture is a 3D production, the extra D contributes nearly nothing to the visuals. So save yourself the surcharge and opt for the 2D version if you can find it.
The script, credited to director Bobs Gannaway and Jeffrey M. Howard, offers a surprisingly informative introduction to the tactics and procedures of wildfire firefighting. The establishing of firebreaks (by scrappy, fast-talking ATVs), the airdropping of water and chemical retardant on fast-moving blazes and the dangers inherent in those activities are worked into the story in compelling ways.
Gannaway has surrounded Dusty with distinctive supporting characters, chief among them being Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), the no-nonsense helicopter leader of the flying firefighters. He’s a dude very much in the mold of Harris’ “Apollo 13” flight director Gene Kranz. There’s Dipper, a giddy, flirty air tanker voiced by Julie Bowen who seems to be channeling “Finding Nemo’s” flibbertigibbet Dory. And Wes Studi is Windlifter, a heavy-lift chopper well-versed in Native American folklore, mechanically interpreted.
From these folks Dusty learns life lessons about the value of being a responsible team member rather than a hotshot solo speedster and also about the discombobulations that come with being the object of a lady’s affections.
The dialogue is lickety-split and the quips are reasonably clever: Leering pickup truck to little pink runabout: “Hey sugar rims, did you just fall out of a B-17? Because you’re the bomb.” Runabout, responding with a disgusted, dismissive sigh: “Pickup trucks.”
The pace is frenetic, and the whole thing is over in less than an hour and a half. For a summertime trifle, you could do worse.
Soren Andersen: firstname.lastname@example.org