Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Planes: Fire and Rescue Review

Planes: Fire and Rescue Review

Today, I finally caught up with “Planes: Fire and Rescue,” the new film from Disney that takes place in this strange world where mobile machines dominate and they are run by no humans. As the year 2014 began to get started, I was pretty indifferent about seeing “Planes: Fire and Rescue.” Out of all the movies in the Pixar camp, I feel that the “Cars” movies are the least imaginative and least innovative, I would even call “Monsters University” more innovative than the “Cars” movies. When children talk about the Pixar movies, how often does one of the “Cars” movies come up in conversation? I did see “Planes” last year, and it has been so forgettable that I really can’t remember too many details from it. I remembered Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) and how he strived to be the fastest pilot to fly in a around the world race. That was basically the synopsis in the “Planes” movie last year.

In “Planes: Fire and Rescue” Dusty has damaged his engine and he may never race again. In order to help a small town, Dusty joins a forest fire and rescue unit to be trained as a firefighter. That is the basic synopsis for this sequel, and for a children’s movie, I think it is a good thing to keep the story simple. Children do not really strive for outstanding character development and story details in their movies, they just want to be entertained. When my daycare took the eighteen or so children to see this movie today, they all had a good time. If you haven’t got a chance to see this sequel yet and if you have kids, take them to see this. I have no doubt in my mind that they will be entertained.

My problems with “Planes” last year were that the film catered quite a bit to children, while the adults would have been bored. “Planes: Fire and Rescue” suffers from the exact same problems, while the children are having a good time, you adults probably won’t find too much to latch onto. Remember the days of classic Pixar? Remember the Disney classics? Those movies had story and humor that both children and adults could both identify with. I remember when I was five, and I was seeing films like “Toy Story,” and “The Lion King” and “Tarzan” and films like that with my family, the discussions my family and I used to have were priceless. I remember we would talk about the story, what made us laugh and even our favorite characters. I don’t understand how anybody could find a favorite character in “Planes: Fire and Rescue,” these are not characters in this movie, they are simple types. There is the typical hardass mentor and the evil park administrator, and the comic relief and the tough mechanic, but they never once feel like characters. They do exactly what you think they will do and they create a film that is obvious. I am sure children don’t mind this, but I wonder if they notice a trend with most of the children’s movies coming out lately and how each one feels like copy of the other. These “characters” are never really funny either. Adults won’t laugh at them because their idea of a joke is so obvious that it won’t spray a grin on their face, and children won’t laugh because they don’t really understand the idea of automobile mechanics quite yet.

As for the story? Well, that is pretty straightforward too. That means there is no emotional heft to anything (as line the “Toy Story” movies or “The Incredibles” or “Finding Nemo”) and nothing particularly surprising or new happens. I also wonder if these movie studios can offer anything else for children except exhausted self-actualization stories. If this is all these studios can offer, I really wish they’d do something daring and different with them. I wonder if kids can pick up that all these children’s movies say is that when you have a goal, there will be setbacks, and there will be individuals that try to stop your goal, but with enough perseverance and persistence, you will reach your goal. And I wonder if they are getting bored with that basic outline for a movie, time and time again.

I know, I shouldn’t be so critical over a children’s movie should I? I guess I could say that the animation is, to be assumed, quite stunning. I love how realistic the fires look in the film, it is quite remarkable. I also like the aviation scenes in the movie and I love how those equally feel real and are not handled with simple fluff. The voice work by Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, John Michael Higgins, Hal Holbrook, Wes Studi, Teri Hatcher, Stacy Keach, Cedric The Entertainer and Regina King is all very good and this is a near-perfect cast for a children’s movie, I just wish they had a better idea to work with.

Because the film is so basic, I do not have much to hold onto. So I begin sitting back and thinking about this movie as well as the “Cars” movies, and I begin to over-think things. As this film went on and the machines talked about enjoying corn and listening to a classic rock song, I began to wonder where the humans are in this world and what happened to them. I hope one of these movies takes place in a church in the future, just to see if there is some kind of machine God they believe in that created them. I don’t understand how there can be wasabi in “Cars 2” and corn in “Planes: Fire and Rescue” yet these machines need fuel to survive. It is a glaring omission to the movie that has never been explained and when they pile on more ideas, it is hard to ignore after awhile. Why would sentient beings decide to become machines that transport other beings around? It is a wildly silly idea that is never taken seriously in these movies, and I think it is getting to point where you can’t just say “it’s only a kid’s movie.” Honestly, where are the humans? I have read several other reviews that say the exact same thing, so I don't really feel crazy for bringing this up.

At this point, I am quite tired of all these talking transportation machine films. I don’t want another tedium “find yourself” story. I want a movie that engages the entire audience again, something both adults and children can enjoy and discuss afterward. If they continue with these “Cars, Planes, Boats and Motorcycle” films, I hope we eventually learn where all the humans went.

FINAL GRADE: C-

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