‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’ Review: Fire the Studio Execs and Rescue the Audience

'Planes: Fire & Rescue'

Movie Rating:


Released barely a year after the first ‘Planes’ and boasting a running time that barely qualifies as feature length, ‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’ was clearly conceived as a direct-to-DVD cash-grab, but couldn’t be released exclusively that way since that market dried up. Now the turd is coming out in theaters and painfully bored parents will pay the price. This is an embarrassing release from Disney that almost undoes the good will work scored from ‘Frozen’… almost.

Set shortly after the previous ‘Planes’ outing, Dane Cook’s super-speedy racing plane is immediately struck with a plot contrivance that prevents him from being able to fly at top speed. Why? Well, purely to concoct an excuse to have him join a high-flying fire and rescue service, of course. Aside from the usual beats in which the protagonist must prove himself against a grizzled doubter (this time voiced by Ed Harris), that’s pretty much all that happens in the movie. Cook can’t race, decides to be a firefighter, learns how, does it, roll credits. Without those credits, the movie barely cracks the 70-minute mark because the screenwriters and filmmakers simply have no idea what to do with this sequel, and at a certain point simply resign rather than wrapping anything up. The last ‘Planes’ movie was pretty atrocious, but at least coasted by on the borrowed “struggling outsider” Pixar template. This sequel barely even commits to that structure and is easily one of the emptiest family films produced in recent years.

The problems start immediately after the Disney logo with an irritating dedication to real life firefighters in a desperate attempt to lend the movie importance-by-association. Then, but a few seconds later, a horrible fart joke occurs to immediately undercut any accidental weight that dedication might have brought. From there, a parade of kiddie picture clichés are trotted out with such unmasked laziness that it’s almost admirable. If nothing else, you have to admire how the hundreds of digital artists managed to let a movie with so little content, plot, charm or meaning slip by without ever calling “Bullshit.” It feels like a movie produced purely to keep Disney’s staff of animators employed between major projects, and offers absolutely nothing of value beyond some expensive and glossy animation (which doesn’t make much impact when it’s presenting garbage in $100 million quality).

Not even the voice cast featuring the usually dependable likes of Ed Harris, Brad Garrett and Fred Willard adds any spark or energy. Even Dane Cook, desperately clinging to the last threads of his acting career, can’t be bothered to put in any effort. At times, it feels as if the cast and crew all got together before production and said, “Look, we all know this is crap, but we all have mortgages. Let’s just get through this as quickly as possible so that we can move onto the point in our careers where we pretend this never happened.”

By the time ‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’ mercifully comes to a close, the movie somehow manages to hit an all time low for Ed Harris’ career, Disney’s animation department, AC/DC music licensing, and even fart jokes. Now, let me make something perfectly clear: I love all four of those things independently. However, it’s painful to watch so many talented people go so wrong. There’s no pleasure to be found in this movie whatsoever. Even if you’re an overstretched parent looking for a 70-minute cinematic babysitter, don’t even consider forcing this mess onto your kids. I’m sure that somewhere in the distant future, studies will reveal that the generation of children who saw ‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’ went on to deliver the worst SAT scores in recorded history. Please, for the good of the nation, don’t let your children be part of that statistic.


  1. Phillip Meehan

    So am I supposed to devastate my twin 3 year old boys by not taking them to this movie? You movie reviewers take yourself way too seriously. This movie is obviously aimed at young children and Disney knows that, and the fact that they can make more money off of all the new planes they will sell. Take this movie for what it is, a kids movie that I am guessing my two boys will love-and I will be happy to share their SAT scores with you in 14 years. Stick to the English Patient and The Kings Speech type movies from now on….I’m sure kids will love those!

    • Drew

      Wow! I’m flabbergasted by your lack of tact and the hateful nature of your comment. Why would you ever be so abusive to anyone, let alone an innocent film reviewer?

      You’re seriously saying that Phil should only review art house and indie fare, simply because he opined that this particular children’s film is of very poor quality? How is that even remotely logical or rational?

      Guess what? There are great children’s films and bad children’s films; just like there are great art house/independent films. Critics decide whether or not a film is good or not, regardless of which genre they belong to. You were completely out of line, in making such offensive and rude remarks.

  2. Phil Brown

    Yeah….well, I love children’s movies when they are well done. This is just an atrocious movie. Nothing to do with the fact it’s for kids. You’ll see…

  3. Gaz Hunt

    I think Phillip Meehan is missing the point. The reviewer is not telling kids to go watch arthouse/indie darlings. The reviewer is simply stating that THIS movie sux. Guess what……..it does. Parents should not waste their money on this drivel.

  4. Phillip, crap is crap. Disney and by association, Pixar, always prided themselves on quality and wonder. This obvious cash grab set up by execs and money-men is detrimental to the craft and a smear on their good names.

  5. Phillip Meehan

    You are all missing the point. I assume none of you have kids or have “offspring” that have been asking about this movie since they saw a preview 6 months ago. Based on our esteemed movie reviewer, I am now apparently obligated to destroy my boys hearts and avoid this movie because it will lower their SAT scores. I can guarantee that they will LOVE this movie. My opinion of this movie’s quality is irrelevant and to be honest I don’t care how good it is. I care only how big of smiles they will have on their faces after the movie. Some day some, not all you, will too.

    • Phil Brown

      Of course you are allowed to bring your children to see the movie. I hope they enjoy it. Believe it or not, my review was never intended to be an attack on you or your family. I was just stating my opinion because that’s my job. As much as I appreciate the suggestion that a humble film critic’s opinion could cause someone to never see a movie that they wanted to see, that’s not how the world works. I have the right to my opinion and you have the right to ignore it. Please feel free to take advantage of that right. Sorry if I upset you.

      • Kevin T.

        I am of the opinion that you should not have urinated in Phillip Meehan’s cereal before destroying his children’s childhood by simply pointing out a crap kids movie for what it is — a crap kids movie.

  6. John L

    Looove this review. Only too much credit given to Disney as they subcontracted this work to India. Not even american made. Anything from Disney Toon Studios is outsourced.

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