August 22, 2014
Last year, "Planes," an full-length animated feature film by Disney, was a pleasant surprise. It may have had practically the same "race-against-all-odds" story as "Cars", "Turbo" and many other animated films. But "Planes" still managed to be distinct and charming on its own, for both kids and adults.
We get a lot of this homespun country charm again in its sequel called "Planes: Fire & Rescue." Our hero crop-duster plane Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) is having problems with his gear box and cannot push his engine to racing speeds anymore. One day, Dusty crashes and causes a fire at his hangar. This accident revealed the inadequacy of the emergency capabilities of his community. Dusty decided to try and have himself accredited as a Fire-Fighter.
The story is pretty slim, standard and predictable, so this film spent a lot of time showing grand forest vistas, amazingly realistic and scary fire scenes and more amazing aerial feats by Dusty and the other fire-fighting aircraft. The vivid artwork is definitely breathtaking on the big screen, and was able to evoke intense dramatic moments with a very real sense of danger and urgency.
Personally, my favorite part was when it was revealed that Dusty's stern mentor Blade Ranger (authoritatively voiced by Ed Harris) was once an actor in a TV cop-show called "CHoPs". When the very memorably familiar theme song of 70's motorcycle cop show "CHiPs" (starring Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox) was played, the nostalgia it evoked brought a smile to my face. Of course, this "wow" moment for me would just fly over the heads of the generally juvenile audiences.
For many adults, this may be an average affair for the most part. In fact, my tween kids were not really too interested to watch it. But despite the fact that this is a film for young kids, I give it props for tackling a form of heroism not usually shown on the big screen -- the noble courage of fire and rescue teams. Given the immense risks to life and limb these people face in the line of dangerous duties, their unsung bravery certainly deserve more notice and recognition from the general public. 6/10.