“Planes” was about winning. The 2013 animated Disney film was about little-plane-that-could Dusty Crophopper becoming an international racing hero.
“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is about more than winning. It’s about giving back, making sacrifices and realizing winning isn’t everything.
Aimed squarely at boys ages 4-6, but pleasingly entertaining for older kids and those slightly younger (there’s nothing too scary), “Planes: Fire & Rescue” is a straightforward, old-fashioned animated adventure. Yes, girls will like it, too — I saw it with two 7-year-olds who loved it — but the film is definitely targeting boys with its talk of gearboxes and tools and gadgets.
Set a few years after “Planes,” international star Dusty is still soaring and racing and winning. Until, one day, the superstar aviator gets some very bad news. Dusty is getting old and his gearbox is wearing out. He’s got to rein in the speed, or he’ll crash and burn. With no replacement gearboxes available for an old model like himself, Dusty is crushed and, like so many, unwilling to accept his limitations.
His refusal to go gentle into that good night means he ends up putting both himself and the airfield at risk. A dangerous fire exposes some of the old airfield’s shortcomings.
In an attempt to help out, and also distract himself, Dusty decides he’ll become a fire plane. And off he soars to a Yosemite-like park, lushly rendered with crashing waterfalls, rushing rivers and leafy green trees in gorgeous 3-D.
When he lands, Dusty soon realizes there’s more to flying than winning, as he sets off on a series of life-and-death adventures. As he’s not one to always listen to orders, his impetuousness endangers the other planes more than once, providing a nice learning opportunity for young children. When a major forest fire threatens the park’s lodge and the lives of thousands, Dusty needs to learn to be a team player.
Does he do the right thing? Of course; this is Disney. The ending is nicely uplifting, without being overly sweet just like the rest of this soaring adventure. There are some quite funny moments including a “Chips” parody Gen-X parents will appreciate and a few mildly scary ones involving the fires. But overall this, “Planes” is a gentle ride with a serious message.