Lil’ Dipper, voiced by Julie Bowen, left, and Dusty, voiced by Dane Cook, in Planes: Fire & Rescue
Lil' Dipper, voiced by Julie Bowen, left, and Dusty, voiced by Dane Cook, in Planes: Fire & Rescue
Planes: Fire & Rescue is twice as good as its story- and laugh-starved predecessor, Planes. There was nowhere to go but up.
The sequel's story follows Dusty, the racing plane, learning to be a S.E.A.T., a Single Engine Ariel Tanker, a firefighting plane. For very young children, it offers animated suspense and lovely and exciting animated aerial footage of planes and helicopters fighting forest fires in the American West.
Most of the characters are stiff. But bringing in Ed Harris (as a no-nonsense trainer-helicopter), Hal Holbrook (voicing an ancient fire truck) and Wes Studi (a Native American Sikorsky Sky Crane chopper) classes things up.
And adults will catch the increased supply of one-liners, which will zoom right over the heads of kids. The story has Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) discover that his antique gearbox has nearly given out, so he can't race anymore. When, in his grief, he causes a terrible fire at the Propwash Junction Airfield, he realizes at least he can train to be a firefighter and help aging fire truck Mayday (Holbrook) keep the field from closing. Dusty flies off to Piston Peak to train with the team suppressing fires in a National Park.
Harris voices the hardcase captain of the team, Blade Ranger, a chopper. Julie Bowen is a cute, flirtatious float plane, Studi milks a few funny lines as the inscrutable Native American heavy-lift Sikorsky, and so on.
There's more of a Thomas the Tank Engine feel to this sequel, with planes and firetrucks and bulldozers doing the work of dousing pretty convincing animated blazes. The conflict comes from the ambitious park superintendent (John Michael Higgins). Disney put more of a Pixar imprint on this than the first Planes, with familiar voices such as John Ratzenberger, Fred Willard and Patrick Warburton fleshing out the cast.
A couple of flight sequences take us over majestic deserts and amber waves of grain — beautiful animated scenery. Other than that, there's not much to this.
Rated PG for action and some peril.
1 and 1/2 stars