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Monday, July 28, 2014

Planes: Fire & Rescue 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

Planes: Fire & RescueDirector: Roberts Gannaway
Year: 2014
Rated PG
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Ed Harris, Dane Cook, Julie Bowen

Planes: Fire & Rescue (the animated film I'm about to review) is pretty much about talking planes. Don't worry though, you'll still get to see a host of talking cars as well. As expected, "Rescue" is clearly a spin-off, a sequel, and an influx of inspiration spawned from 2006's highly successful Cars. There were parts of it that I liked being the obvious yet clever mix of adult/kid humor, parts of it that I could have done without such as the uneven combination of hard rock and country songs in the soundtrack (for kids films, I'm OK with just some feasible background music), and parts of it that didn't quite add up to a whole ("Rescue's" short running time for instance, is a poultry 83 minutes). My mixed review is ultimately gonna stem from the fact that I wasn't able to see it in 3D. If I did though, I think I would have enjoyed it more (I saw it in the more traditional, 2D cropping style). The computer animation is lush and the way certain scenes are cut and angled, I'm thinking that what's on screen might have catered more to a 3D setting. Perhaps I could upgrade to a more positive review via a second viewing by wearing those goofy, plastic blue glasses. Only time will tell.

Directed by Roberts Gannaway (who subsequently does some of the voices in his films as well) and meshing effectively, the adage of a humanistic-laden background combined with the palate of an animated background (just like with 2013's Walking with Dinosaurs), Planes: Fire & Rescue follows one crop duster plane turned racing phenom in Dusty Crophopper (voiced by foul-mouthed comedian Dane Cook who's vocal delivery seems tailor made for the role). As "Rescue" opens with some high flying, eccentric-looking stunts, Dusty is glowing from being crowned the Wings Around the Globe race winner (the main event or plot point that occurred in Planes). However now, he can't gain speed or race like he wants to because his quote unquote "gear box" has become damaged. This provokes Dusty to take a break from the whole racing scene and train to become a firefighter. He is aided and put through the ringer sort of speak by a helicopter commander (and former TV star quiet as it's kept) named Blade Ranger (voiced by the venerable Ed Harris).

As mentioned earlier, "Rescue's" greatest strength lies in its ability to throw in a zinger or two. This keeps the adults happy (most kids can't go to the movies alone so the parents, aunts, and uncles have to accompany them) and garners a few chuckles along the way (with my nephew sitting beside me, I actually laughed out loud once or twice). The humor featured is cultural referenced, pun induced, and even celebrity based (a version of the actor Burt Reynolds is assigned to a talking boat and his name is "Boat" Reynolds, get it?). There's nothing racy or satirical about it so I was actually scratching my head trying to figure out why the MPAA board gave it a PG rating. Regardless, I remembered the following tidbits: 1. there's a bar where sleek cars and even sleeker planes go to called "Honkers" (ha ha). 2. a male car actually hits on a female car in said tavern and the female says, "I don't really like pick up trucks" (get it, pickup trucks). 3. an older car announces to everyone in context, "I have gas" (ha ha, knee-slapper). 4. some of the planes prefer to drink a "motorjito" (as opposed to a mojito). 5. and finally, a show playing on television in "Rescue" is entitled "CHoPPs" (or choppers which is a slang term for helicopters). It's the aerial version of CHiPs and if you were alive when that show aired, the theme song still rocks!

All and all, Planes: Fire & Rescue is short, brainless, contains an unsatisfying conclusion (does the main character go back to racing or frolic in the aspect of saving countless firestorm victims? We never really know for sure), and feels completely rushed to hinder to its quick-minded, closing credits. With neither a hint of another upcoming sequel or possibly a funny outtake sequence (all the computer-animated films seem to hightail this trend), "Rescue" feels undernourished and ultimately unfinished. In the future what's left, a computer generated, inspired farce called Trains (you know, a flick about talking locomotives who's personas don't creep you out like the ones in 2000's Thomas and the Magic Railroad)? Who knows for sure. Planes: Fire & Rescue isn't the least bit terrible as turn-the-brain-off entertainment. Editing wise though, it probably needed to be "rescued" from itself.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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