Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 23 min.
Our content ratings (0-10): Violence 2; Language 0; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (0-5): 3
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
Taking up where the first Planes ended, Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) is back in Propwash Junction basking in the fame and admiration earned from his winning the round the world aerial race. However what he thinks is a minor engine problem turns out to be major when his four-wheeled mechanic Dottie (Teri Hatcher) discovers that his gearbox is about to break down. If he pushes his speed too high, it will be the end of his life, and not just of his racing days. The gearbox is so old that thus far no replacement parts can be found. Then when a fire breaks out at the airfield—one caused by Dusty—the rundown fire truck Mayday (Hal Holbrook) fails to put it out. The Feds’ investigation reveals that the airport is in violation of safety codes, and thus may have to shut down. To bolster the fire fighting team and help save the airport Dusty decides to enroll in a firefighting school.
The school is located at Piston Peak National Park in the West, a park that looks much like a combination of Yellowstone and Yosemite. The firefighters are led by a rescue helicopter named Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), who becomes upset with Dusty when the latter pulls back on his speed during an exercise. He does not know of Rusty’s gearbox problem. More supportive is Lil’ Dipper (Julie Bowen), a seaplane that scoops up water from the lake. She has followed Dusty’s racing exploits, becoming an ardent fan. Rounding out the team are Windlifter (Wes Studi), a Native American helicopter, and a former military transport named Cabbie (Dale Dye). Unfortunately their efforts to protect the park are hampered by the pompous and ambitious park superintendent Cad (John Michael Higgens) who has invited the US Secretary of the Interior to the grand reopening of his remodeled guest facility, delightfully named The Grand Fusel Lodge. When a fire on the other side of the mountain gets out of control and Blade Ranger urges that the hundreds of guests be evacuated, Cad insists there is no danger. You can imagine what happens next.
The grandeur of the mountains and lakes are beautifully drawn, and the fire scenes are awesome, making this a better film than the original. This is not one I particularly want to see again, and yet it has many moments of beauty and lots of thrills for young viewers, even the suggestion that the anthropomorphic machines can die. Of course, this thought is not as wrenching here as in Bambi, but it is something parents should be prepared to deal with. Themes of friendship, teamwork, and true heroism as self-sacrifice are also well handled. One particular little touch I enjoyed was the name printed on the coal tender of the park‘s antique train, “Muir,” a nice nod to the father of nature conservation. Adults might suggest to children that they Google the name John Muir, thus introducing them to a man and movement they should know about. The film is no classic, but nonetheless enjoyable, providing a nice time at the movies for families.
The review with a set of discussion questions will be in the August issue of Visual Parables. See The Store for obtaining it.