Paper Planes: Film Review
Cast: Ed Oxenbould, Sam Worthington, Deborah Mailman, David Wenham
Director: Robert Connolly
The director of Balibo has gone in completely the opposite direction with this family friendly movie that's refreshingly retro in many ways.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day star Ed Oxenbould is Dylan, a young kid living in Western Australia, whose dad's mired in grief following the death of his mother five months ago.
With his father (played with Aussie outback blokiness by Sam Worthington) refuses to move off the couch or show any interest in life around him, Dylan finds his interest piqued in a paper planes championship. When he makes it through to the national finals, Dylan discovers he faces threats and friendships in equal measures from those around him.
Paper Planes wears its heart on its sleeve with a gently refreshing naivety that some will find endearing, and others will find frankly infuriating.
Reminiscent of the gentle Children's Foundation dramas which used to play back in the UK on a Friday afternoon, its retro charm has certain limited and likeable appeal if you're willing to forego some of the lulls and some of the faintly sketched out characters.
Messages of competing for fun, not just for winning and the bonding of fathers and sons are likely to cause as much a ripple in some emotions as the frankly gravity defying CGI planes cutting through the air provoke incredulity.
Skewing young with its overt messages and earnestness, the piece is carried by the almost everyman behaviour of Dylan - as personified by Oxenbould's lispy, heavily cow-licked haircut kid. There's a certain charm to his turn as we celebrate the traditional kid in the Aussie outback (one early scene sees him playing Snake on an analogue phone while all his classmates turn in their latest iDevices to the teacher) and his underdog status.
But if Paper Planes stops from soaring, it's due to moments which demand the audience draw the dots and overlook the gaps in character development; Worthington spends most of the movie moping, Dylan's friendship with a chubby classmate barely progresses along the "let's put our differences aside and be mates" level, and the villain of the piece is more cardboard and stiff than the paper the planes are fashioned out of.
Ultimately, with its heart-on-its-sleeve earnestness and with a target of youngsters purely in mind, Paper Planes will hit its demo square on. It could have done with an expeditious trim here and there though, and some parents may feel the nostalgia of the past isn't quite enough to see them through - but you can guarantee that most of the kids watching this will be planning their own papyrus based miracles of aviation after the credits have rolled.