Home » New films: Planes – Fire & Rescue, The Purge – Anarchy, Sex Tape
Film Review

New films: Planes – Fire & Rescue, The Purge – Anarchy, Sex Tape

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Moviebriefs Roundup

This is one of those weeks where, for mainstream wide releases, audiences are likely to have a better time than critics. None of these films have fared well in the media, but all have audiences who are more likely to recognize their respective appeal.

Planes: Fires & Rescue

This surprisingly rapid sequel to last year’s somewhat lackluster “Planes” looks more promising in theory than it manages to be in practice. The “Planes” franchise is an attempt to copy and cash in on the “Cars” phenomenon and it hasn’t really managed to deliver in quite the same way – probably because cars are far more accessible and recognizable, even to children, than planes and helicopters.

This time around, Dusty Crophopper is enjoying his race winning celebrity status, until he damages his gearbox and it turns out the parts aren’t available to fix him. When he causes a fire at the local air strip, he decides to train to be a fire fighting plane in order to help the facility earn back its safety rating.

This sounds very noble in practice and the movie seems to be being sold as a tribute to firefighters – which certainly might appeal to some parents of small children. But the problem is that Dusty isn’t really dedicating himself to this new pursuit or sacrificing much to do it. He’s covering his own mistake, which has at least some merit, but he only views it as a temporary fix until he can get back to racing and fame.  And during training, he willfully ignores instructions and jeopardizes those around him – very little of which sounds like a good lesson for kids.

There have been several kids’ films recently that seemed, to me at least, to be sending odd messages to their target audience. Disney’s “Brave” seemed to have very little to do with bravery, for example, and more to do with similar, self-serving willfulness and a desire to cover up one’s mistakes. This summer’s “Earth to Echo” has teenagers helping out an alien who seems to have little regard for anybody other than itself. And last year’s “Epic” created villains out of creatures who simply feed off decay, part of the balance of nature, as opposed to classic stories that tended to feature unspecified dark forces.

The other problem with “Planes: Fire & Rescue” is that aside from occasional moments of humor aimed at adults, as is common in kids’ films, it has entire subplots that kids won’t have any clue about – even some younger parents might not. One character has a past career in a fictional TV show modeled closely on “CHiPs” (with a character voiced by Erik Estrada) and the central plot of the film is reminiscent of various disaster movies like “Jaws” in which one character ignores the imminent threat that the good guys can clearly see coming.

Still, kids in the single digit age range are likely to dig it, regardless of whether or not they’re getting it all or learning very meaningful lessons in the process.

The Purge: Anarchy & Sex Tape

Both of these films are high concept, in that they each rely on a very simple, central premise that defines the basic plot. Respectively, a night during which no crimes are punished and a couple whose personal sex tape gets uploaded to other computers. And the outcomes aren’t the kind that are generally heralded by critics – “R” rated sex comedies and ultra-violent horror/thrillers not being typical critical darlings. But even food critics can have the occasional Big Mac Attack.

So for those who find either premise inherently appealing, the results are likely to be quite satisfying. Both films benefit from appealing leads, and both run with their underlying premises and find surprisingly inventive ways to make them into something more than they might have been in less capable hands.

“The Purge: Anarchy” certainly benefits from Frank Grillo’s performance as a man seeking justice, who ventures out on the annual night of mayhem only to encounter others who desperately need his help. Grillo has an edgy authenticity in action roles but also has the acting chops to make the quieter scenes work, whereas some actors known for their action work can’t carry those intimate moments.

In “Sex Tape” there’s an infectious energy from Cameron Diaz and a slimmed down Jason Segel that just raises the level of fun. Very little of it makes a great deal of sense, but it’s not hard to imagine that a couple who have just had their three hour video adaptation of “The Joy of Sex” sent to various friends’ and family members’ computers would act similarly irrationally.

These aren’t Academy Award winning movies but they aren’t trying to be – and they’re not awful either, as they easily could have been. They’re both effective genre fare for those who find such content appealing – and if you don’t connect with either premise, don’t go.

About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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