There is a goofy Michael Keaton movie from the ‘90s called “Multiplicity,” where a man makes a clone of himself and his clone then produces another clone who turns out to be a complete imbecile. The explanation is when you make a copy of a copy, the result isn’t as clear or sharp as the original.
“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is Disney’s copy of a copy, a sequel to a movie that came out less than a year ago that itself was a kinda-sorta-not-really sequel to “Cars.” If you’ll remember, “Cars” was a product of Disney’s Pixar wing, which pretty much has defined quality family entertainment for the past 20 years (although many will argue that “Cars 2” was Pixar’s first clunker and tarnished the studio’s pristine image).
Pixar then jettisoned the property over to Disney’s animation studio and the result was “Planes,” where anthropomorphic aircraft zoom around in the same universe as all the talking vehicles from “Cars.”
“Planes” was a critical flop and performed barely so-so at the box office. All this brings us, a mere 11 months later, to “Planes: Fire & Rescue,” the sequel nobody needed or asked for.
It’s not an offensively bad movie; it just feels flat and muted. You can see traces of Pixar’s trademark quality with crisp animation, a heartfelt story, a rich cast of characters, and the occasional gag aimed more at the parents than the kids; but it lacks that magical spark, like a talking hand compared to Kermit the Frog.
It’s merely a copy of a copy.
The plot continues the story of Dusty Crophopper (voiced by the questionably talented Dane Cook), the little crop-duster who achieved his dream of becoming a racing plane.
After an accident, Dusty’s local landing strip is shut down until a second firefighter can be found to help out aging fire truck Mayday (voiced by Hal Holbrook (!)). With his racing career on hold thanks to a busted gear Dusty — team player that he is — volunteers to get certified as a firefighter.
Dusty ventures to Piston Peak National Park, which bears a striking resemblance to Yellowstone, where he learns to fight forest fires along with an entirely different group of eclectic characters.
They are led by helicopter Blade Ranger (voiced by Ed Harris (!)) and are all pretty much forgettable aside from scene-stealer and Dusty’s not-so-secret crush Lil’ Dipper (voiced by Julie Bowen).
Valuable lessons about perseverance, selflessness, and cooperation are learned and we all go home better people.
Again, this movie isn’t terrible in and of itself, but what is terrible is its slapdash effort at attempting to replicate Pixar’s tried-and-true formula. But then as “Multiplicity” expertly pointed out, you shouldn’t expect much of anything from a copy of a copy.
“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is rated PG for action and some peril.