Sequel doesn’t quite take off

'Planes 2: Fire & Rescue' is out now. PA Photo/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures UK
'Planes 2: Fire & Rescue' is out now. PA Photo/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures UK

If the first ‘Planes’ film, a spin-off from Pixar’s ‘Cars’ that appeared to be propelled by merchandising rather than creative necessity, this action-packed sequel attempts to stand on its own landing gear with a stirring tale of heroism.

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”.

Aimed at younger audiences it’s a touching sentiment and screenwriter Jeffrey M. Howard engineers some moving exchanges between the characters.

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.

Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) is the hero with something to prove who takes on the role of airborne firefighter after setting his local airport ablaze. With a star-studded cast including Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, Ed Harris and Hal Holbrook, Dusty learns the value of teamwork and the important contribution of the emergency services.

On the whole, though, Gannaway’s sequel lacks the sophistication and emotional richness of yesteryear’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.