Year 7, Day 272 - 9/29/15 - Movie #2,164
BEFORE: It may seem a little odd to veer into animation for just one day, separating two films about rock musicians, but it's necessary to maintain my actor linking. Ed Harris, who appeared in blackface (still a no-no) in "Masked and Anonymous", does a voice in this film, and so does another actor who provides a link to tomorrow's film. Besides, I've got a few more animated and puppet-based films coming up in a few days.
THE PLOT: When Dusty learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he joins a forest fire and rescue unit to be trained as a firefighter, or else his air strip will be shut down.
FOLLOW-UP TO: "Planes" (Movie #1,851)
AFTER: It wasn't that long ago when I first watched "Planes" - September 2014. So either they rushed the sequel into production, or I sat on "Planes" for a long while before watching it. I'm thinking it was the first case, because there was only a year between the release dates of the film and its sequel. I'm going to stop and re-read my review of the first film just to catch up.
AH, yes, my main complaint about "Planes" was that the filmmakers couldn't think of anything to make the plane characters do except race. (duh, planes can go fast!) Which not only made it a distinct rip-off of "Cars", but also displayed an incredible lack of creativity. In the sequel, someone finally realized that vehicles are useful - they can fight forest fires! Great, I support this because it makes the characters more useful, and since the planes have personalities, there's now a chance for personal growth. It's not just about winning a race, it's about saving lives, even if those are the lives of other planes and not the lives of humans, who are once again mysteriously absent from this world.
I was also worried about the message that "Planes" sent out to kids - that's it's all about winning. Hey, if you're not first place, you're last. Second place is the first loser, and all that. That little problem gets solved here too, because Dusty is forced to think of other things, and put his friends first (due largely to his own mistake, but still, overall the message is still better). In "Planes" Dusty was also afraid of heights, which made no sense (he's a PLANE!) and here he's given a different imperfection, a fault in his engine that prevents him from doing the maneuvers necessary for racing.
However, Dusty is also afraid to talk about his defect/handicap, which itself sends out the wrong message. (Kids, if there's something wrong or different about your body you should never, ever discuss it with anyone...) This engine defect, sort of like a heart valve problem or something, should have been disclosed when Dusty started training with the fire-fighting corps, because not disclosing it put himself and others at risk. Not cool, and it sets a bad example.
Then we have the same problem from "Planes", when Dusty got his fuselage modified to have himself changed from a crop duster to a racing plane - the human equivalent would be plastic surgery or some kind of body-modification surgery, and this becomes a sort of tacit approval of these practices. Kids might think differently about becoming a firefighter or doing some kind of public service if they pick up on the fact that their acceptance in that career would be based on their body shape or their willingness to change it.
Maybe I'm being too hard on the film, because it did improve so much on the message from the first film. And if I try a little, I can draw connections to "The Artist" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" - both of those films also featured characters who were going through career crises. George Valentin in "The Artist" was upset that he couldn't be in any more silent films, and Llewyn Davis was wondering if there was any place for him in the new folk music scene. Really, it's not a big leap from those two films to Dusty learning that he can no longer race. All three characters have to find a way to move forward through changing times. They can only wallow in depression for so long, and have to make the best out of their new situations.
See, I've got my theme for the week once again. I'm down with it because I went through this myself about a year ago, when one of my jobs went away, and I'd been working for that company for over 20 years. I wasn't completely out of work, I just went from having two part-time jobs to one - so I was spending two more days each week at home, getting some chores done, going out to lunch, and trying not to let it affect my self-worth too much. But I got a new part-time gig a few weeks ago, so I'm back up to a 5-day work week. I understand this feeling, when you're one thing for so long, and then you're told you can't be that any more, and you may go through this identity crisis of sorts. Eventually you can find the strength to say, "OK, I can't do that any more, so let me find something else."
I know that this is just a simple little kids film at heart, but I can't help but look for a larger meaning, or one that relates to my own experience in some way.
NITPICK POINT: I'm not sure I understand the concept of "torque" is, and how it related to Dusty's gearbox problem. What causes torque on a plane? Is it speed, changing altitude, sudden acceleration, what exactly? And if I didn't understand it, I'm willing to bet that a child wouldn't understand it. And why couldn't he just fly with less torque, whatever it is? OK, I get that it's something inherent to racing, but then the problem came up again during the firefighting training. Why the heck does he have a warning light about exceeding his torque if he was only going to end up ignoring it?
Also starring the voices of Dane Cook (last seen in "Stuck on You"), Julie Bowen (last seen in "Horrible Bosses"), Teri Hatcher (last heard in "Planes"), Brad Garrett (ditto), Cedric the Entertainer (ditto), Stacy Keach (last seen in "Nebraska"), John Michael Higgins (last seen in "A Million Ways to Die in the West"), Curtis Armstrong (last seen in "Elvis Meets Nixon"), Hal Holbrook (last seen in "Midway"), Wes Studi (last seen in "Undisputed"), Barry Corbin, Regina King (last seen in "Mighty Joe Young"), Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara (last seen in "The Out of Towners"), Fred Willard (last seen in "Anchorman 2"), Bryan Callen, Patrick Warburton (last seen in "Ted"), Erik Estrada, Rene Auberjonois (last heard in "The Little Mermaid"), John Ratzenberger (last seen in "Gandhi"), Steve Schirripa (last seen in "Play It to the Bone"), Brent Musberger, Kate Micucci, Kevin Michael Richardson, Brad Paisley.
RATING: 5 out of 10 episodes of CHoPS