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My family and I recently went to the new(ish) Disney movie, Planes: Fire & Rescue (at The Beacon Drive-in in Guthrie). In addition to heartily recommending the venue, I would heartily recommend the movie. While not perfect, it’s (mostly) family-friendly fare with a message that is better than what Disney usually offers.

For those not familiar with the movie, Planes: Fire & Rescue is the follow up to the 2013 hit, Planes, which basically does with aircraft what Cars did with automobiles. In this installment, our hero, Dusty Crophopper, is back home in Propwash Junction, preparing for a huge race in the annual Cornfest festival, which now has national attention, thanks to Dusty’s amazing win in the last movie.

Much to Dusty’s chagrin, though, it turns out that he has a bad gearbox, which can’t be replaced since it is out of production, and is told he has to quit pushing himself. In spite of doctor’s…errr.. mechanic’s orders, Dusty takes to the skies to prove everyone wrong and ends up crashing and causing a fire. In the aftermath, it is determined that Propwash Junction’s fire fighting capabilities are horribly inadequate, so, unless they can find another firefighter, the airport will be shutdown and Cornfest will have to be cancelled. Unable to race, and feeling guilty, Dusty volunteers to take the training and get certified, which is where the movie starts in earnest.

Overall, this is a great movie that clearly highlights the bravery and selflessness of the untold number of men and women across the country who risk their lives in fires for strangers (the opening credits even has a dedication to them). The training shows how rigorous the job can be, and the story contains numerous examples demonstrating the dangers of the profession (or calling, if you will). The characters are fun and engaging, and the setting is great.

What I really loved about this movie (and jump to the next paragraph if you don’t want a minor spoiler) is how Dusty goes through the training, risks himself to save others, and, at the end of the movie, doesn’t seem to end up racing. Unlike in Cars where Lightning McQueen makes it to the race just in time, Dusty seems content to return home to a different role (though he and his new firefighting friends do fly a demonstration flight).

The movie is not perfect, though. At one point, a Propwash Junction resident shows off his bumper and under carriage to Dusty and his friends. Their reaction clearly mimics how we would react if someone were to… expose himself to show us the results of surgery, for example. Later in the movie, an old, long-married Recreational Vehicle couple, cleverly named Harvey and Winny, share how he got her new tires for their wedding, and how they “wore out a lot of tread” on their honeymoon. When Dusty looks shocked, they exclaim with laughter, “On the tires!” There were a couple of other minor items that you may or may not catch, and they’re all completely unnecessary, but such is the world of children’s entertainment these days.

Despite those issues, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, finding the plot and the message of the story much better than not only the original, but the bulk of children’s movies these days as well. Rather than “try hard and you can be the best”,  or “if you love hard enough, you can be a princess”, we see real life heroes celebrated in a fun, entertaining movie.

Photo credit: Disney