With an overtaxed gearbox, the first film’s little-plane-that-could, Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook), must switch professions. No longer able to race competitively, Dusty becomes a valiant firefighter and works to protect the beautiful, expansive grounds of Piston Peak National Park. The fire-and-rescue team leader is Blade Ranger (voiced by Ed Harris), a former TV star of all things (we see a promo for his hit show, a CHiPs spoof called CHoPS). Dusty may not be wild about his forced change in profession, but he learns to bravely soldier on against the looming wildfires.
While Fire & Rescue doesn’t mirror the dramatic leap past its predecessor made by Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2, for what it’s worth it is better than the ho-hum original Planes. Its “little plane, big spirit,” triumph-over-adversity storyline doesn’t exactly mine any truly new territory. But the wildfire-fighting theme (and sincere dedication to the real-life firefighters who risk, and sometimes lose, their lives doing this courageous work) is a nice step away from pure formula. As a kid-oriented family film, there’s more than enough action and humor to satisfying undemanding audiences looking for sturdy entertainment.
DisneyToon Studios’ work looks fantastic on Blu-ray in 1080p high definition. It’s hard not to sound a little like a broken record these days when assessing major studio animated Blu-ray releases, but Planes: Fire & Rescue really is a pleasure to look at. Anything involving the forests and landscapes is rendered in particularly impressive detail. The DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix is quite generous, with a wide array of surround effects and a nicely prioritized Mark Mancina score (and songs by Spencer Lee and Brad Paisley). Action scenes, especially the climax, fairly well leap forth from the speakers, with powerful bass response easily felt through the floor.
Don’t anticipate too much from the supplements. Though there are quite a few things to click on, nothing runs more than a few minutes. Highlights are the animated shorts “Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular,” “Dipper,” and “Smoke Jumpers.” There are a few deleted scenes in varying state of completion (with brief director/producer intros). “Air Attack: Firefighters from the Sky” is a short live-action featurette focuses on the some of the actual gear that served as the basis for Fire & Rescue. The Blu-ray package also includes a standard DVD and Digital HD download.