Watching Planes: Fire & Rescue is like being trapped in a revolving door of mediocrity, and it offers further proof (if that was needed) that Disney is only in it for the money it can siphon from the wallets of unwary parents. If the volubly restless small children at the showing I attended were any indication, even 4-year-olds won’t have it. You know things are not going well when a tot of approximately that age asks his father, “Do we have to watch the rest of it?” I shared that boy’s pain. Unfortunately, there was no one to whom I could pose his question. I was stuck — and it seemed interminable. The “best” thing about the experience was how much it made me enjoy The Purge: Anarchy, which I saw immediately afterward.
I am similarly stuck in trying to find anything to say about Planes: Fire & Rescue. Well, it fulfills the promise of its title in that it manages to include everything stated in its name. I didn’t see the last year’s Planes (and I have no intention of correcting that gap in my cinematic education), but I gather that it also — like the Pixar Cars movies this franchise rips off — takes place in a world where human beings, and indeed any organic creatures, simply do not exist. Yes, I know, this is a fantasy aimed at credulous children (very credulous children), but not only does this raise all manner of questions about mechanical sexuality, conjugality and propagation, but it’s just downright weird. Moreover, late in the film when our hero, Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), is told to think about all the lives he won’t save if he quits, I couldn’t help thinking, “Hey, there’s nothing in this movie that’s actually alive.” Am I overthinking this thing? Oh, certainly, but if the movie had been any damned good my mind wouldn’t have wandered into this area.
If you’re insistent on knowing about the plot — why I cannot imagine — it has something to do with champion racer Dusty suffering from gearbox dysfunction (and, of course, they don’t make his kind anymore), which somehow causes him to accidentally burn down part of an airport. This, in turn, causes him to go to fire and rescue school where life lessons will be learned and virtue rewarded — you know, fantasy. The whole thing is more mechanical than its characters. The jokes are corny and largely unfunny. The drama is dull. Even at 83 minutes, the story is so thin that it has to be padded with musical intrusions to eat up time. That it looks pretty good — in a perfunctory, computer-animated manner — doesn’t really help. The only cure for this is to watch something else. Rated PG for action and some peril.