Let’s get the minor disappointment out of the way first: This franchise continues to ignore what is potentially a great movie - the brief flashback to WWII in last year’s Cars spinoff was more thrilling than anything else on show – but Fire and Rescue is still a vast improvement on the first outing.
Now a world champion, Dusty (Cook) is living high on the hog until he blows his gearbox, a part that isn’t manufactured for his particular crop duster anymore. Down in the dumps, Dusty’s day gets worse when the airport is threatened with closure lest they update their dangerously outmoded fire service. Unable to race like he used to, Dusty offers to help out ageing fire chief Mayday (Hal Holbrook) but first needs to be trained in. He takes off for Piston Peak Air Attack Base where firefighter trainer Blade Ranger (Harris) has no time for flash young things…
This Planes/Cars universe continues to raise awkward questions - Who are the seats for? How can they see the gauges inside the cockpit when their eyes are outside the plane? - and this sequel is actually a sneaky remake of the first Cars movie, which was actually a sneaky remake of Doc Hollywood (show off gets stuck in the hell that is Hicksville, USA but comes to appreciate their cornball ways), but this is still much better. Wow, despite all this it’s still much better than Planes - it just goes to show how bad that was.
Inspired by a more rousing script his predecessor Klay Hill was dealt, director Roberts Gannaway (TinkerBell: The Secret of the Wings) injects more oomph and phizz to the visuals - having his planes flying in and around flaming forests, negotiating dangerous rapids, and forklifts parachuting from DC-10’s to the strains of AC/DC would be a way to insert a bit of life into a movie. Harris (disembodied from that growly face, his voice is quite distinctive), Julie Bowen, Hal Holbrook, Patrick Warburton, and John Michael Higgins, voicing the park superintendent that’s more worried about celebrities visiting the park’s flashy grand lodge than fire safety, make welcome additions.
There are some eye-rolling puns (flirty vehicles are pickup trucks; sycophants are ‘bumper kissers; and there’s the celebrity Boat Reynolds) but it’s all with tongue in cheek. Plus, it’s nice to get a nod to CHiPs.
Far better than the first and worth the punt for the 3D.