By Sandra Kraisirideja
“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is noticeably better than the first “Planes” due to its impressive flying sequences, interesting mix of characters and stronger script.
Comedian Dane Cook returns as the voice of Dusty Crophopper along with his co-stars from the first film: Stacy Keach as Skipper, Brad Garrett as Chug and Teri Hatcher as Dottie. The new film, however, relegates these characters to the sidelines to make room for some new faces.
“Planes: Fire & Rescue” finds Dusty at the top of his game as a racer, but his career is cut short when a crucial piece of his engine is damaged and there is no replacement available anywhere.
The animators, led by director Roberts Gannaway, have stepped up their game with the flying sequences, which also get a boost from the 3D technology. It’s quite an immersive experience seeing this on the big screen.
Refusing to accept that he may have to give up racing forever, Dusty makes one last attempt to push his engine past red but inadvertently causes a fire that leads to the shutdown of the airport at Propwash Junction, just as the town is preparing for its annual corn festival.
When the townsfolk learn that the airport won’t reopen unless another firefighter is hired, Dusty offers to take the job. His first round of business is to get certified as a SEAT—Single Engine Air Tanker—which leads him to Piston Peak National Park to train under Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) and his fearless team of firefighting aircraft.
The other members of Blade’s team are played by Julie Bowen as Lil’ Dipper; Curtis Armstrong as Maru; Wes Studi as Windlifter; and Regina King as Dynamite, an off-road vehicle and leader of a ground-clearing construction crew known as Smokejumpers.
The filmmakers went to great lengths to capture the camaraderie and professionalism of the aerial firefighters they met during their research, which included a visit to the Hemet-Ryan Air Attack Base with CalFire and a viewing of the U.S. Forestry Services’ annual training exercises at the Aerial Supervision Course. The movie opens with a dedication to the men and women who risk their lives to save the lives of others.
The setting of Piston Peak National Park, inspired by Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, gave the filmmakers a chance to further explore a world where everything is either a car or plane. Seeing what a mountain lodge might look like if it had to accommodate both planes and cars is quite something.
What is even more impressive is the climatic wildfire where Dusty finally proves himself as a firefighter. “Planes: Fire & Rescue” does a great job of paying its respect to aerial firefighters and bringing attention to what they do on a daily basis.