Alright, Disney. You can stop now, it’s not funny anymore. We’ve all seen Frozen. We know perfectly well that you’re capable of better than this. Drop the act and make that Incredibles sequel already!
Well okay, the original Planes was, to be fair, never a movie intended for the Disney Animated Canon and it wasn’t even one of their big productions. Even then, though, one must wonder who at Disney Toon Studios is so depressingly bankrupt of original ideas that they decide that making a sequel to the spin-off of an already milked franchise is the next great step forwards? The demand for a full-blown Planes franchise cannot seriously be this high. Hopefully.
In this sequel to the, ahem, not so good flick from last year, Dane Cook returns as Dusty, the cropduster turned race plane. Except he’s not a race plane in this one; he’s a fire fighter. Apparently his engine was damaged by some sort of lazy writer, rendering him unable to continue racing. Starting a brand new life, he joins the fire and rescue team of a helicopter voiced by Ed Harris. Among other things, we learn that this chopper was formerly an actor on a popular TV series called CHOPS. Har har. In the process, Dusty aims to help Ed Harris’ team get back on track after an inadequate rescue mission puts them at risk of being shut down, and the rest is pretty much just scenes of planes putting out fires. What a movie.
Like most Disney films, Planes 2 treats us to a multitude of supporting characters, except that this time around, not too many of them are memorable or funny worth a dingus. Returning from the last film are Stacy Keach as Skipper the fighter aircraft, Teri Hatcher as Dottie the forklift, Brad Garrett as Chug the fuel truck, and Cedric The Entertainer as Leadbottom the Biplane, but these aren’t the only celebrities lending their voices to roles that would seem beneath most Hollywood professionals.
Why, for example, would Wes Studi want to play the voice of an anthropomorphic heavy-lift helicopter? Why is Julie Bowen willingly portraying a Super Scooper that’s also an annoying fangirl that keeps creeping on Dusty? And oh dear Hal Holbrook, whatever the hell are you doing giving your voice to a damn fire truck? Admittedly, Holbrook’s was the only character I somewhat cared for, but still.
Planes: Fire And Rescue is as desperately money-grubbing as a franchise of kid’s films can possibly get. There is no creativity, no noteworthy sequences of genuine excitement, no memorable storylines or characters, and no gag that’s more effortful than your average bad pun.
Sometimes the film will become so desperately lazy that it recycles jokes from previous films in the franchise, and it doesn’t exactly pick the smartest ones of the bunch. One of the earliest lines in the film is Brad Garrett’s character going “I’ve got gas”. It wasn’t funny when that one car said it in Cars so why would it be funny 8 years later? Another example is the gag where an elderly, senile vehicle mistakes a TV for a radio. Both of these cop-outs occur within the first 5 minutes of the movie’s runtime. Let that speak for itself
Did anyone involved in this production care? Of course not. This is one of those instances when the film that’s being made is “just a kid’s movie”. Why is that a sufficient excuse when, in the past, Disney has put such admirable effort into teaching children lessons and inviting them to whimsical journeys with movies like The Lion King, Beauty & The Beast and, most recently, Wreck-It Ralph? It is true that kids are easy to impress and thus easier to help you make money, but I remain faithful that there are still filmmakers hired by Disney who know deep down that that’s not what it’s really meant to be about.
If anything, Planes: Fire & Rescue is a good pick if you’re in a hurry to find something innocent and colorful to distract your kids with for 70 minutes. If you want them to learn something useful, however, keep looking.