‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’ Review

Published 10 months ago by , Updated October 7th, 2014 at 1:12 am,

planes fire rescue review Planes: Fire & Rescue Review

The short of it: Planes: Fire & Rescue is a better made film than its predecessor on a technical level, but otherwise just as generic (in some ways, more so) on a storytelling level.

In the Planes sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue, we catch up with crop duster-turned global racing champion plane Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook), who’s now one of the more famous (if not the most famous) aeronautical racers in the world. However, all that high-velocity action has taken its toll on Dusty’s gears – and when it turns out that his damaged gearbox is a model that has long been out of production, Dusty finds himself facing the possibility that he may never race again.

A new career opportunity for Dusty presents itself when it turns out that, in order to pass safety regulation standards, Propwash Junction Airport is in need of a second firefighting vehicle, to assist the elderly fire and rescue truck Mayday (Hal Holbrook). First, though, Dusty needs to get the proper certification from Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), a seasoned helicopter who heads an elite fire and rescue team at the Piston Peak national park – but does Dusty have what it takes to battle wildfires alongside the best of the best?

planes fire rescue dusty reviews Planes: Fire & Rescue Review

Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) in ‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’

Directed by Roberts ‘Bob’ Gannaway (Stitch! The Movie), Planes: Fire & Rescue represents an improvement on its predecessor in the technical department – meaning, unlike the first Planes installment, the sequel’s visual storytelling qualities are more on the level befitting a theatrical release. DisneyToon Studios’ computer animation is still nowhere near to reaching the level of tangible and/or expressive detail offered by Walt Disney Animation or Pixar Animation, but the film’s overall cinematic language (use of montage, transitions, etc.) is more sophisticated than its predecessor’s – and the handful of action sequences even offer some genuinely striking imagery. That said: 3D is not a necessity to get the full viewing experience.

Unfortunately, those gains in animation technique quality come at the expense of the plot and character development in Planes: Fires & Rescue. The Planes sequel moves away from the sports underdog formula of its predecessor into action hero territory, but winds up with a story that has less direction and focus as a result (which is saying something). Similarly, it seems that the relationship between Dusty and Blade Ranger is meant to anchor the story emotionally – much as Dusty and Skipper’s (Stacey Keach) student/teacher dynamic did in the first installment – but as Dusty is the only character with any sort of arc, the payoff to their subplot rings quite hollow.

planes fire rescue blade ranger Planes: Fire & Rescue Review

Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) in ‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’

The Planes: Fire & Rescue story and script (co-written by Gannaway) do, in fact, have elements that might’ve been expanded upon in order to weave a richer narrative tapestry, but either the filmmakers didn’t realize that or there was additional key plot material that never made it past the early stages of development. Regardless, while the movie props itself up as being a heartfelt salute to the bravery of real-life firefighters and smokejumpers, it really feels more like a calculated corporate product – one interested in cramming in as many vehicle characters (which are ripe to be sold as toys) and kid-friendly car/plane/train/etc. puns as possible.

As with the first Planes movie, in Fire & Rescue Dusty is an everyman (everyplane?) personality who lacks any real depth. Similarly, most of the supporting players from the previous film get shoved aside to make room for new characters, who range from being rather questionable – see: the heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter, who talks like a Native American stereotype (voiced by Cherokee actor Wes Studi) – to just flat, such as the rescue plane Dipper (Julie Bowen), who’s also happens to be a Dusty fangirl, and the film’s “villain” Cad Spinner (John Michael Higgins), the profit-minded SUV and superintendent at Piston Peak. You’re likely to recognize other voices (Fred Willard, Patrick Warburton, Regina King, Curtis Armstrong, and so on), but chances are you will be hard-pressed to remember their characters’ names (or anything else about them), afterwards.

Planes Fire and Rescue Movie Preivew Planes: Fire & Rescue Review

Dipper (Julie Bowen) and Maru (Curtis Armstrong) in ‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’

The short of it: Planes: Fire & Rescue is a better made film than its predecessor on a technical level, but otherwise just as generic (in some ways, more so) on a storytelling level. Again, there’s nothing here that’s really worth getting worked up about – even the obvious marketability of the characters and outdated archetypes just come off as lazy, not offensive. Kids who enjoyed the first Planes movie should also find much to like about the sequel, though they’ll probably have all but forgotten that they ever saw these films when they’re older (just like their parents did when the end credits started rolling).


Planes: Fire & Rescue is now playing in 2D and 3D theaters. It is 84 minutes long and is Rated PG for action and some peril.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. Is it ever weird going to these kid movies by yourself? I mean I know a lot of SR readers are old enough to have kids, so I get why there are kid movie reviews, but it can’t be easy sitting down for these things. lol

    • Haha, well, I generally see these movies at either an early screening with other critics or at a late-night Thursday showing. That way, I tend to avoid weirding out parents who’re wondering who this strange man is, paying such avid attention to a Planes movie. 😉

      • Haha!

        I unfortunately didn’t have that pleasure when I saw The LEGO Movie, had to find a corner to sit in while the rest of the cinema was packed with parents and small children (I was literally the only adult there by myself without a child hanging off my leg).

        Have to add something to the original question….you ever get weird looks when you’re making notes during the film? Not from the adults, from the children wondering why that person is frantically scribbling on paper/typing on a device of some kind.

        • Personally, I don’t write down notes while watching a film to review – though I do take mental notes, so to speak.

          • I honestly don’t know how you do it. I’d get too hung up on something (good or bad) and forget something from earlier in a movie.

            I used to review TV shows (though I haven’t in 5 or 6 years) and pretty much had to take notes because over the 2-3 hours, a lot happened and try to make sense of it later to post when the shows aired in the US (they aired here at 9pm and the US had them at 2am GMT/9pm Eastern). Live posting was easier, I could stay up until 4am GMT typing thoughts and quick reviews of what was happening as it aired in both countries at the same time then hit the “Post Comment” button during commercials.

    • No are not alone, its just communities that are happy to be a kid still and enjoy these films aren’t established yet so, yes alone as an attender, but just because theres no social media that provides a date candidate,I felt pretty ridiculous sitting through this trailer in theater while waiting for how to train your dragon two, despite seeing the first one.

    • @christine
      Usually I play games in my iPad. My wife usually catches up on social media with her iPhone.
      We always use silent mode of course. Works everytime.

  2. As a parent, I love taking my kids to the movies, but sometimes these films are so bad and boring that I just can’t bring myself to pay good money and sit through a painful 90 minutes. I felt this way about Turbo and parts of Despicable Me 2. I’m just keeping quiet about this movie’s release so we can avoid the torture!

  3. ugh

    I am so tired of these animated movies. CGI will never be as good as old fashion drawn art.

    • Not really, both have merits, it’s just that you’ve been overloaded with CGI animation with poor stories and it makes the traditional hand-drawn sort look superior in the process.

      • Nah mate, i appreciate the CGI ones – especially when the whole package is good – but i appreciate hand drawn so much more. So much to be said for the craft that is hand art. Being able to sketch and draw is supreme, and anyone that can do it well knows this. Obviously, it`s different strokes for different folks, but being able to use 3D Max is not the same as being able to draw and ink a page and in my book the hand drawn stuff has more personality than CGI. Frozen would have been better if it was hand drawn art (and without all that singing:) Also, getting kids to pick up pen and pencil is the way to go, instead of getting them in from of computers and tapping on glass with their fingers. Unfortunately it is virtually unavoidable these days. So much is done on straight on the computer, that most of it is so generic.

        • I dunno, I’m an artist too (many feathers in my cap, working on a new oil painting at the moment actually) but wish I knew how to use the computer programs Pixar for example use because it’s one of those growing mediums that – like hand-drawn animation – takes time to perfect.

          The traditional method shouldn’t ever die out, that would be a tragedy, I just think that people shouldn’t be so quick to throw out the idea of drawing using 3D animation.

  4. So many of you hide in your theater closets because you think watching an animated film is weird. LMAO. Never ceases to amaze me, especially from a film critic. Enjoy the work of art and ignore the rest. There are plenty of people who watch it for various reasons, art is definitely one one them.

    • Yep, it’s not really that weird to watch a movie aimed at children, it’s just the perception of others. I generally don’t give a crap what anyone thinks of me anyway but you’re definitely aware of more eyes being on you if – like me – you’re more used to going to big movies on opening day and sitting in a mostly empty room.

  5. I went to see the movie today with my 7yr old
    Son. It was a really good movie:)
    Dane Cook needs to do more kids movies!!!!!!!!
    Awesome job!!

  6. I for one am puzzled as to how a PLANES sequel even got made. My 2 girls love just about every Disney and Pixar film released in the last decade and the ones they don;t love they still like. That is except for PLANES. I could not get them to sit through more then 15 minutes of the film and thats at home where its nothing for them to sit without moving thorugh a showing of any other PIxar or Disney film.

    I thought PLANES was a box office bomb but according to BoxOfficeMojo the thing took in almost double its buidget and thats jutst domestically; globally its did over 200 million on a 50 million budget; hardly what I would call a box office bomb. Now I’m wondering why my own kids can;t stand it.

  7. I just don’t understand how anyone could be so cold as to give this film 2 stars.

    “Planes: Fire & Rescue” is better than the first film (and I enjoyed the first film)

    The film is a lot better than what you are giving it credit for in terms of characterization and plot.

    But then again, many critics are unfairly biased against the Cars/Planes movies.