Despite the fact that this too-soon spin-off feels like a mere cash-in on the Disney Cars/Planes marketing machine, this sequel is actually a lot more fun than expected. Not only is the animation witty and sometimes even exhilarating, but there are some solid messages in the story. On the other hand, there's also the continuing problem of making movies in which the central characters are inanimate objects with cute faces drawn on them. But never mind: see the movies, buy the toys, keep the kids happy!
After the globe-hopping race in 2013's Planes, the new champ Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) sees his new celebrity career grounded when he develops a problem in his gearbox. He can still fly, but the torque required for racing stunts could do him in. So he decides to retrain as an aerial firefighter to help his local airfield maintain its certification in time for the annual Corn Festival. In training, he is mentored by veteran chopper Blade (Ed Harris), working alongside his starstruck fan Dipper (Julie Bowen), the noble Windlifter (Wes Studi), the sassy Dynamite (Regina King) and the genius mechanic Maru (Curtis Armstrong). But a raging wildfire is threatening the nearby Fusel Lodge, and the local park superintendent (John Michael Higgins) doesn't want to shut it down with so many stars as guests.
The best touch here is to make Dusty utterly full of himself, never listening to any advice before charging in unprepared for the next challenge. It's predictable and underdeveloped, but it makes this chirpy crop-duster far more interesting, and adds some unexpected diversions in a plot that otherwise heads exactly where it has to go. Meanwhile, the screenwriters pack the dialog with witty puns and some snappy verbal and visual gags that allow the actors to give their vehicles a bit of personality, even if some of this is merely ethnic stereotyping or simplistic hero/villain morality.
Continue reading: Planes: Fire & Rescue Review