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'Planes: Fire & Rescue' offers more excitement in obligatory sequel

Dusty Crophopper is back -- and still voiced by Dane Cook -- in Disney's Planes: Fire and Rescue.
Dusty Crophopper is back -- and still voiced by Dane Cook -- in Disney's Planes: Fire and Rescue.
Disney, with permission

planes: fire and rescue


Release date: July 18, 2014

Directed by: Roberts Gannaway

Written by: Jeffrey M. Howard

Starring: Dane Cook, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstron, and Ed Harris

The good news about this obligatory sequel from Disney is it is much better than the generic toy commercial that was last summer's "Planes". The bad news is that "Planes: Fire and Rescue" still features Dane Cook's voice. The kids won't care though, and there is enough entertainment to justify the trip to the box office and probably to the toy store right after.

Continuing Disney's tradition of milking a franchise and idea, "Planes: Fire and Rescue" comes less than a year after its predecessor. Dusty Crophopper is a champion racer who has just received troubling news. His engine is giving out and the replacement part is obsolete. While he waits for his friends to find a possible replacement, Dusty joins up with a group of adrenaline junkie fire fighters, led by the legendary. Dusty joins forces with Blade Ranger, a veteran rescue helicopter. His team is made up with a rag tag bunch of all-terrain vehicles known as The Smoke Jumpers.

The change of setting helps dramatically. Ditching the generic racing plot and teaming Dusty with the Smoke Jumpers provides and opportunity for a few fairly exciting action sequences. The 3D is greatly enhanced by the aerial fire fights. One scene, amped by the booming AC/DC tune is better than anything offered in the first flick. But it also doesn't try to do too much and with an 83 minute running time, it goes pretty quickly.

Where the first movie had a bit of a lackluster and bland supporting cast, "Fire and Rescue" benefits by new characters. The always reliable Ed Harris voices Blade, Julie Bowen from "Modern Family" plays a rescue plane with a bit of a crush on their new celebrity fire fighter, with John Michael Higgins and Curtis Armstrong adding their talents as well.

Disney seems to have learned from mistakes made before. The movie feels less generic, but never slows down long enough to be as boring as the first "Planes" either. Still lacking the Pixar name, it still lacks a bit of a heart. Then again, it's hard to emotionally invest in a bunch of planes and helicopters with faces. The only real red flag in an otherwise harmless movie are a few play on words that sound enough like curse words that may have parents paying extra attention to which lines their kids are repeating.

But the little kids will find plenty to enjoy here. Even better, the moms, dads, big brothers and sisters being dragged along won't be clawing their eyes out. It's mindless, probably unmemorable, but at this point it's the cinematic equivalent of jingling your keys in a baby's face.

Running time: 83 minutes.

MPAA rating: PG for action and some peril

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