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“Planes: Fire and Rescue” Saves the Day

About a year ago, I wrote a review for Disney’s Planes. I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about it and neither were my kids. The story was stale, but the animation was superb, especially in 3D. I wasn’t alone feeling this way. Despite poor reviews of the first Planes movie, Disney charged ahead with the second, which was already in production. The summer of 2014 brings everyone a chance to revisit Propwash Junction’s favorite conflicted, navel-gazing plane, Dusty Crophopper. But does anyone want to?

planesfireandrescue53399bca5e0d9Fresh off the mountaintop of a world championship win, Dusty finds himself back in his home turf with his friends. It’s clear he doesn’t intend to retire from the racing circuit. During one of the training runs with his loveably gruff coach, Skipper, something goes terribly wrong. Planes: Fire and Rescue follows Dusty as he grapples with disappointment and forges a new identity of sacrifice and outright bravery. No longer pursuing personal glory, Dusty learns to find a higher purpose in the face of terrifying danger.

That sounds like heavy stuff, and it is. But it’s still a Disney kids’ movie, so there are plenty of new funny characters and the animation remains superb. Planes: Fire and Rescue is far better than the original. I was bracing myself for 84 minutes of torture, but I found myself enjoying a pretty compelling story. Compelling? Yep. I don’t know what happened, but for the first time in American cinema history, the sequel far outshines the original and I am actually recommending a trip to the movie theater. I took Teddy, who is almost four. He adored it, but he adored the box of popcorn and the 3D glasses because it was his first trip to a movie theater. Archie, age five, loved it as well. The true test? I took my 15-year-old son and he was pleasantly surprised. He’d seen the first because we rented it, thought it was OMG lame, and groaned when I told him he was going with us to the sequel. He probably thought he was being punished.

As we walked out of the theater, he said, “That was pretty good!”

Don’t let the title scare you off. It seems as though it was created solely with four-year-old boys (and their Christmas lists) in mind, but it’s actually a smart salute to those who protect forest lands, residents, and visitors from devastating fires that plague the western US every summer. The pacing is perfect with humor and much sharper writing than the original. Yeah, it’s predictable for adults, but what Disney movie ends with the main character failing spectacularly, leaving sorrow and ruin in their wake? None. One truly funny stretch of the movie is a bone thrown to Gen X parents in the audience. Two words: Erik. Estrada.

Planes: Fire and Rescue opens on Friday, July 18th in theaters. It’s rated PG, most likely for some intense scenes of forest fires and characters in peril.

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