2014-07-18

Planes: Fire and Rescue – Definitely Not On Fire

by Yo Snyder

As an adult, it’s hard not to be cynical about the Planes
spin-off franchise. Everything about it cries out “money grab” on the part of
Disney. Planes: Fire and Rescue especially
seems to fit that mold. After all, what’s cooler than planes and helicopters?
Planes and helicopters that fight fire!
Still, this movie isn’t particularly made for the cynical adult. Unlike typical
Pixar films which often appeal to all ages, Planes
is firmly focused on the little ones. Cool firefighting planes saving the day
along with some goofy humor along the way is right up their alley; in theory.
In truth, even my kids found the movie to be a bit cliché and predictable.
However, it is occasionally funny, it does have some mildly exciting moments,
and it does have a good heart. Formulaic though it may be, it’s still solid
family entertainment.

While the first Planes movie was clearly just Cars but with
Planes, this movie is a bit more subtle in its imitation of the franchise it’s
emulating. Cars 2 introduced a spy
element, and obviously Fire and Rescue
doesn’t go that route. However, it’s still a story about a character trying to
be something different than what they really are, and saving the day in spite
of their ineptitude in their new career. In Cars
it was accidental, here it’s intentional, but nonetheless, the Planes franchise
doesn’t wander too far from territory its big brother has already covered.

In all honesty, I actually found some of the lines and clips
shown in the trailer to be pretty funny – i.e. “My girlfriend ran off with a
Prius, I never even heard him coming!” Classic. Sadly, most of the best lines
are in the trailer, so although I did have some hopes for some decent humor
throughout, it’s mostly there in the trailer, and most of that occurs in one
scene. The rest of the film goes through the paces, and does it sincerely
enough to remain engaging but predictably enough to never fully hold my
attention. Again, little brother tries to live up to big brother, but never
quite gets there.

Still, the message about what it takes to be someone who’s
willing to risk their lives for the sake of others is a good one; and one that
isn’t heard of enough these day. Sacrificial heroism and the willingness to do
the right thing simply because it is the right thing is something kids
definitely need to see more of. When the question was raised what kind of
person would risk their lives for strangers, I immediately thought how the
Bible talks about how Jesus was willing to die for us while we were still
sinners (Romans 5:8). In short, Jesus was not only willing to save strangers
through his death and resurrection, he was willing to save the very ones who
wanted him dead in the first place. It’s takes a very special person to be
willing to do that; it takes a loving God to be willing to do that.

I walked out of our screening and walked over to the very
helpful screening rep who was collecting everyone’s thoughts on the movie, and
as I was about to share my opinion…I drew a blank. I had nothing to say because
I couldn’t really recall much of what I just saw; it was so average it left
very little impression at all. In fact, my kids had more eloquent things to
share than I, the “professional reviewer.” Still, I guess the most telling
critique is when the kids the movie is targeted at felt the proceedings were a
bit bland and predictable. Planes: Fire
and Rescue
is a passably enjoyable way to spend some time with the family,
but it wouldn’t really be my first choice.

Score: 4 of 7 – And that’s probably being too generous, but it’s a good-hearted, inoffensive family film that’s mildly amusing.