If the first Planes film, a spin-off from Pixar’s Cars, appeared to be propelled by merchandising opportunities rather than creative necessity, this action-packed sequel attempts to stand on its own landing gear with a stirring tale of heroism and self-sacrifice.
As the title suggests, Planes 2: Fire & Rescue immerses us in the daredevil world of fire-fighting, honouring the men and women – and aircraft – who “fly in when others are flying out”.
It’s a touching sentiment and screenwriter Jeffrey M Howard engineers some moving exchanges between the characters, some of whom are a splutter away from the scrap heap.
Director Bobs Gannaway employs the 3D format to striking effect in aerial sequences and the animation of raging infernos is impressively realistic.
However, there’s an inescapable feeling that this gung-ho adventure should have taken a flight path directly to the home formats rather than the big screen.
Planes 2: Fire & Rescue is geared towards younger viewers, hammering home the importance of teamwork and the valuable contribution of emergency services.
There are a handful of verbal and visual gags to engage older audiences: a front cover of industry magazine Cariety; a bar patron drunkenly confiding, “She left me for a hybrid.
“I didn’t hear it coming!”
A spoof of the long-running motorcycle police series CHiPs includes a cameo for Erik Estrada as Blade Ranger’s partner on air patrol.
On the whole, though, Gannaway’s sequel lacks the sophistication and emotional richness of yesteryear’s Frozen or recent Pixar fare.
Animation is crisp and colourful and the vocal performances are similarly warm so audiences feel a toasty glow before the first plumes of smoke from the computer-generated blazes.
6 out of 10
By Damonn Smith