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Review: Disney’s ‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’ shifts gears successfully

07/18/2014 12:00 AM

07/18/2014 3:23 PM

At the beginning of Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue, we’re reminded of how world-famous air racer Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) became so world-famous.

For those who saw the first installment of Disney’s Planes, we’re also reminded of how disappointing the original was. The 2013 film was a direct-to-DVD mess. The animated film was a retread of the popular Cars and made enough money at the box office to fulfill the expected “Planes” trilogy.

The surprising thing about the sequel is that it’s actually much better than its predecessor.

The refreshing reboot re-introduces us to Dusty Crophopper as he prepares to dazzle the visitors of hometown Propwash Junction at the corn festival. After being warned about the potential damage to his “gear box” if he pushes himself too hard, Dusty’s ego gets the better of him and he recklessly takes off at night, crashes and causes a fire. The fire leaves the town in shambles and the lone fire truck in jeopardy of losing his job. In order to comply with the rules set by Ryker (Kevin Michael Richardson) of the Transportation Management Safety Team — TMST, aka This Means Serious Trouble — the fire truck must be upgraded and another firefighter added.

Dusty volunteers for fire duty and goes to Piston Peak National Park to be trained by veteran fire-and-rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris). There he meets a slew of new characters, including spirited air tanker Lil’ Dipper (a delightful Julie Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter (Wes Studi) and a boisterous bunch of all-terrain vehicles known as the Smokejumpers, led by Dynamite (Regina King). Dusty is launched into the world of aerial firefighting and must face his fears.

The 3-D animation is stunning and the story gets an ample boost from adult-type humor — “ shut the hangar door!” — and one-liners such as “She left me for a hybrid. I didn’t even hear him coming!” The addition of new characters and new voice actors also gives the movie a much-needed emotional base. Don’t miss the cameo by Erik Estrada, playing his ’80s self.

There’s a pivotal point in Planes: Fire & Rescue in which Dusty has to choose between his ego and being a hero. Fortunately for Disney, he chooses the latter.

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