Tuesday 28 May 2024

Ani-MAY-tion: Planes: Fire And Rescue (2014)

Dane Cook returns to voice Dusty Crophopper in this strange sequel to Planes, a film that continues to present a world populated by living vehicles, but also complicates the central premise by featuring more scenes in which vehicles are transported along INSIDE other vehicles (this also happened in the Cars movies, but feels a bit a bit more bizarre, and even Cronenbergian, this time around).

In an idea that feels tired and desperate from the start, Dusty Crophopper is already past his racing prime. He has a mechanical issue that means he can no longer push himself to fly at the speeds he once experienced. Ah well, at least he can retrain alongside planes that keep themselves busy fighting fires. This leads to him being taught fire-fighting tactics by Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) while he works to overcome his own fears, and his dangerous cockiness.

I could add more to that plot summary. Of course there’s a raging inferno to be dealt with at some point. Of course there are valuable lessons to be learned along the way. And, of course, Dusty gets a chance to show that he really is up to the task of being a fire-fighter. This is as predictable as expected, and even more humorless than the film preceding it (which wasn’t exactly a chuckle-fest). Okay, there is no rule stating that this should be a comedy, but it needs something in place of heart and/or genuine tension.

Cook still doesn’t make for a great lead in this role, and he isn’t often surrounded by people who can pick up his slack. Harris is great, as you would expect, and there’s a fun turn from Julie Bowen, playing a character who inexplicably takes a shine to Dusty, but the better voice performers (Patrick Warburton, Fred Willard, and John Michael Higgins) are wasted in roles that have very limited screentime. A number of people return from the first film, essentially bookmarking the tale with some moments that help remind you about the first movie, and both Hal Holbrook and Wes Studi get paid to play characters that could have been played by absolutely anyone. I am happy they got the job, but I wish they had been more involved in the main storyline.

Writer Jeffrey M. Howard is responsible for the weak tale, having just limped along the first time around, and this time he shares writing duties with director Bobs Gannaway. The best thing I can say about Gannaway is that he is equally skilled at both directing and writing. Ahem.

The visuals are okay. I will admit that some moments look great, which is especially impressive when it is a story that includes numerous scenes with fire surrounding main characters. That’s about all I am willing to grudgingly compliment though, considering how this just felt like a waste of my time, as well as a waste of some great actors.

Younger viewers will enjoy this more, of course, and that’s just fine. My relatively high rating reflects the fact that this isn’t aiming to be a sophisticated modern masterpiece. There are so many better movies for them to watch ahead of this though. This is sub-par stuff, and hopefully remains the last time we see this character starring in his own feature film.


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  1. I don't know if it's kid-friendly enough but I thought of a sort of prequel with maybe a framing device in the present where Cropduster learns about his grandfather who was a young bi-plane that gets drawn into WWI and has to fight German planes like the Red Baron. Like Snoopy the fights would be bloodless and probably not too much drama though maybe a friend could get injured.

    1. No. No more Planes movies, no matter how good the idea :-p