Planes: Fire & Rescue Review
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Last summer, Disney decided to release its Cars spin-off, Planes, to theaters—instead of sending it straight to home video, as originally planned. The film’s success led to this summer’s sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue, a follow-up that might leave viewers with an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu.

Planes: Fire & Rescue finds crop duster turned air racer Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) facing a new challenge. When he returns home to Propwash Junction for the town’s Corn Festival, he discovers that his gearbox is failing. Unless he and his friends can find the long-discontinued part in working condition, his racing days are over.

Meanwhile, after causing a fire that gets the local airport shut down until further notice, Dusty decides to help out by training with a team of seasoned pros to become an aerial firefighter.

When most of us sit down to watch a sequel, we generally expect it to have the same feel, the same characters, and a story that’s similar to the original. But Planes: Fire & Rescue seems to take its sequelitis a little too far. From the beginning, there’s just something about it that feels all too familiar. The characters feel like copies of other characters in the franchise (and Pixar’s Cars franchise). The jokes feel recycled. And although Dusty’s goal may be different—becoming a firefighter instead of an air racer—the plot feels like a minor reworking of Planes (which felt like a minor reworking of Cars). At times, in fact, it feels as though the filmmakers simply borrowed the Planes script, changing the characters’ names while keeping the same conflicts and scenarios.

As was the case with Planes, the animation is once again below Disney’s usual theatrical standards. Of course, that’s not to say that it looks terrible. In fact, the characters tend to be animated in crisp, clear detail. But the backdrops are often dull and flat—the kind of cost-cutting measures that you’d expect from a straight-to-home-video release.

Still, none of these picky details will really matter to the film’s target audience. Sure, the story is a lot like the original—but kids liked the original, so why change it? Sure, the animation isn’t up to the highest standards—but it still looks better than most of their favorite cartoons. Sure, the characters are familiar—but they’re still likeable. So, for most kids, it’ll simply be a fun 3D diversion.

Planes: Fire & Rescue isn’t the smartest, most sophisticated animated film. It won’t win any awards—and you won’t find parents counting down the days until it comes out on Blu-ray (as they did with Frozen). But if you’re looking for a fun summer outing for the kids, they’re sure to enjoy this harmless high-flying adventure.

Blu-ray Review:
Young fans of Disney’s latest Planes adventure are sure to enjoy the extras included on the film’s Blu-ray release, too. The special features menu is loaded with options—including three Planes shorts.

For more quirky Planes fun, there’s Welcome to Piston Peak, an old-fashioned-style travel reel offering a tour of the national park where Dusty goes for his aerial firefighter training. There’s also a retro-style CHoPs TV promo, as well as a pair of deleted scenes and a music video for Spencer Lee’s “Still I Fly.”

Grown-ups and airplane enthusiasts, meanwhile, will enjoy the behind-the-scenes featurette, Air Attack: Firefighters from the Sky. This short extra follows director Bobs Gannaway and producer Ferrell Baron on a visit to CAL FIRE, which manages wild fires for the state of California. Here, the filmmakers discuss their research for the film while offering a glimpse of how aerial firefighting is handled in real life.

Whether you’re looking for more high-flying, firefighting adventures or something a little more factual, you’ll find it on this release. So after your kids re-watch the film, be sure to explore the bonus features menu, too.

Listen to the review on Reel Discovery:

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