Computer-animated sequel Planes 2: Fire and Rescue
PLANES 2: FIRE & RESCUE (U)
If the first Planes film, a spin-off from Pixar’s Cars, appeared to be propelled by merchandising opportunities rather than creative necessity, this action-packed sequel attempts to stand on its own landing gear with a stirring tale of heroism and self-sacrifice.
As the title suggests, Planes 2: Fire & Rescue immerses us in the daredevil world of fire-fighting, honouring the men and women – and aircraft – who “fly in when others are flying out”.
It’s a touching sentiment and screenwriter Jeffrey M Howard engineers some moving exchanges between the characters, some of whom are a splutter away from the scrap heap.
Director Bobs Gannaway employs the 3D format to striking effect in aerial sequences and the animation of raging infernos is impressively realistic.
However, there’s an inescapable feeling that this gung-ho adventure should have taken a flight path directly to the home formats rather than the big screen.
Soaring over Propwash Junction with his mentor Skipper (voiced by Stacy Keach), Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) suffers a malfunction.
Back at the hanger, trusted mechanic Dottie (Teri Hatcher) diagnoses a failing gearbox.
“From now on, you have to keep down your torque to less than 80 percent,” she instructs Dusty, putting an end to his illustrious racing career.
Dusty angrily defies Dottie and careens into the town’s airport, causing a small fire.
The incident casts doubt on the ability of veteran fire and rescue truck Mayday (Hal Holbrook) to service the airport’s needs.
So Dusty agrees to abandon his racing dreams in order to earn his certificate as the town’s fire-fighting plane.
The plucky crop duster heads to Piston Peak National Park to train under helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), who was once a TV star, and his team including scooper Lil’ Dipper (Julie Bowen), helicopter Windlifter (Wes Studi) and ex-military transport plane Cabbie (Dale Dye).
As Dusty masters the art of airborne fire-fighting, he also learns valuable lessons about friendship and endurance.
As Blade reminds him, “If you give up today, think of all the lives you can’t save tomorrow.”
Planes 2: Fire & Rescue is geared towards younger viewers, hammering home the importance of team work and the valuable contribution of emergency services.
There are a handful of verbal and visual gags to engage older audiences: a front cover of industry magazine Cariety; a bar patron drunkenly confiding, “She left me for a hybrid. I didn’t hear it coming!”
A spoof of the long-running motorcycle police series CHiPs includes a cameo for Erik Estrada as Blade Ranger’s partner on air patrol.
On the whole, though, Gannaway’s sequel lacks the sophistication and emotional richness of Disney’s Frozen or recent Pixar fare.
Animation is crisp and colourful and the vocal performances are similarly warm so audiences feel a toasty glow before the first plumes of smoke from the computer-generated blazes.
THE INBETWEENERS 2 (15)
Some of the Inbetweeners may have bagged jobs.
Some of them may have even found girlfriends, but thankfully The Inbetweeners 2, the comedy series’ second foray on to the big screen, shows our fumbling foursome back on reassuringly awkward form.
And with three hugely popular E4 series behind them and the most successful British comedy of all time to their name in their first film, there’s no need to change the discomforting formula here.
Although almost a year has passed since the lads’ holiday to Malia, the four anti-heroes haven’t matured in the slightest.
Despite getting a place at Bristol University, Will (Simon Bird) is still chronically uncool and is yet to make any real mates on campus; hapless Simon (Joe Cooper) isn’t faring much better up in Sheffield where he’s lumbered himself with a demanding girlfriend who destroys his hoodies; randy Jay (James Buckley) has moved to Australia but is working in a toilet and sleeping in a tent in his uncle’s garden, and dim-witted Neil (Blake Harrison) has somehow landed a job in a bank but is still as gullible as ever.
Fed up with their lives and enticed by Jay’s boastful emails about his conquests with Kylie and Dannii Minogue and five-star lifestyle, Will, Simon and Neil decide to surprise him by heading down under for a four-week break.
Predictably, Jay has been fibbing about his ‘DJ’ job and his bed posts have no more notches in them than before he left Blighty.
In fact, it turns out that he actually misses his ex-girlfriend Jane (Lydia Rose Bewley), first seen in the first Inbetweeners movie.
Rather than kip on the lawn of Jay’s bullying uncle, the gang tag along with Will’s prep school classmate, the popular and pretty Katie (Emily Berrington), whom he bumps into, and head to the traveller paradise Byron Bay in a car that has a mural of Peter Andre’s face on the side of it.
When it looks like Katie is interested in him, Will tries to woo her, giving a toe-curling performance on an acoustic guitar and then racing beefed-up love rival Ben (Freddie Stroma) in a stomach-churning water park ride complete with high-octane bodily functions.
The ‘bants’, as Jay and Neil would call them, come thick, fast and foul here and each of the four friends has their own tortuous meltdown, with varying degrees of putridity and penis jokes bandied around.
Gross, puerile and filled with playground gags, The Inbetweeners 2 is everything you’d expect it to be.