Screened Out – Planes: Fire and Rescue

By : Stephen Miller
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Voices of Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook, Julie Bowen

Stall and fall.

Though this one is slightly better than the first Planes flick, Disney’s cannot justify the Cars/Planes franchise past the Mouse’s maniacal race to sell plastic toys to small children. Frankly, these films are subpar to all of the other Disney and Pixar films. Their mechanical characters are difficult to relate to, and their stories are downright pedestrian.

This franchise is the “crossover” work of John Lasseter’s days at Pixar to heading the Mouse’s animation operations. Unfortunately, gone is the attention to plot and character that we love about Toy Story and especially Finding Nemo. Anything to make a buck – greenlighting underwritten scripts like these make us think Lasseter’s sold his soul.

Dusty the racing crop duster (voiced by the lackluster Cook) is now a famous plane, capturing trophies all over the world. However, he damages his gearbox; it’s not repairable. He’s left with deciding how he’s going to live his life. A series of events causes him to seek out certification as a fire and rescue plane – training he’ll receive from an old coot of a helicopter (Harris) at a national park.

The visuals are actually the only impressive thing about this.

The visuals are actually the only impressive thing about this.

Nothing here soars, though it’s not as pandering as Planes. The only surprise – and there is really only one in the entire 83 minutes – is that they have actually spent a lot of time and effort on the art direction. The scenery is downright stunning.

Everything else putters and sputters. You know where this typical story is going from the first frame. The characters are flimsy stereotypes. There are plenty of stupid puns about vehicles and planes – humor aimed to tickle a four-year-old’s funny bone.

There seems to be a nascent exploration of retirement and repurposing of life. That would be a great film. Actually, that is a great film: Pixar’s Up.

Every time I complain about a Disney film, I get letters from angry locals. However, I would dare anyone to compare the Cars/Planes franchise to any of the other Pixar films. I expect more, because I’ve gotten it before.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

And it’s not just that Disney is trying to target an audience that cannot tie its own shoes. I would argue that A Bug’s Life and the Monsters films are also mostly for toddlers, but they’re way better films, with characters and situations we can care about, and plot twists we don’t expect. I was hoping that director Roberts Gannaway would’ve at least brought some of the sublimating silliness he infused in Cats Don’t Dance.

It’ll make scads of money, though, because it’s got the Disney name. Parents will want to distract their sugar-addled kids, and the children will want the DVD to watch over and over. And then they want the toys, the watches, the bed sheets, the lunchboxes, and the Halloween costumes.

I’ll still argue that it’s very hard to care about mechanical “beings” in mechanical plots. Pun after infantile pun does not make a script. And all the beautiful scenery in the world – and there’s a lot here – will never make this flimsy, childish story soar.

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