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It used to be a rare feat to find a sequel that surpasses the original film. With a few notable and major exceptions (THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, DESPICABLE ME 2, etc), generally the second go is not as fun, which makes it even more surprising that I enjoyed Disney’s PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE more than last year’s PLANES (review).

Having a theatrical follow-up just a year later is almost unheard of for an animated feature, but DisneyToon Studios was already rolling with dual PLANES films from the start, much like they do with their Tinker Bell/Disney Fairies films that head straight for home video – the same path that PLANES was originally set to take. But, with a shift to theatrical for the first one (and a Global $219M+ haul), FIRE & RESCUE found itself on the big screen as well, pulling better reviews but ultimately landing around $80M short of it’s predecessor. Just-released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD in-time for the holiday season, PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE will hopefully find the audience it deserves as it flies home.

Picking up at a time not too far distant from the race-winning exploits of the first PLANES, Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) is still tearing up the circuit until a worn-out gearbox threatens to be the career-ending injury. Inspired by a flaming mishap at Propwash Junction, Dusty essentially makes plans to get a “day job” as a firefighter, but things are never as easy as one would hope, and the eager Crophopper is once again the new kid on a fairly jaded block filled with seasoned firefighting pros.

Rock Father ApprovedWhile the surface shows animation that feels even more vibrant and immersive than the first film, FIRE & RESCUE plays smoother and more balanced, while giving younger audiences an education on firefighting that’s a little deeper than expected, right down to the bonus features which take viewers inside the development of the film and out to the real-life locales that inspired it. Factor in a couple of cool throwback pieces like HOWARD THE TRUCK (as in “Duck”) on VHS and Ed Harris’ Blade Ranger being the star of a CHiPS-like television series called CHoPS, and there’s just a lot here to dig.

Rock Father-approved.

PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE is available via (my associate) Amazon:

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