Paper Planes (Robert Connolly, 2014)
Aussie movies aimed at kids don’t seem to come around too often. Try to think of a film set in Australia with Australian characters that is primarily for children. From this millennium. I can only come up with two – Hating Alison Ashley (2005) and Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger (2008) and these are both aimed more specifically at girls in early secondary school. It is thus a welcome rare event for Paper Planes to be released these school holidays.
Ed Oxenbould (of televisions’s Puberty Blues and the recent US release Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) stars as Dylan, a twelve year old boy who is fascinated with flight. He lives with his grieving father (Sam Worthington) following the recent death of his mother some months earlier. When his teacher (Peter Rowsthorn) discovers that he has a knack for making paper planes, Dylan ventures to the local paper plane competition, with his eyes on the World Paper Plane Championships in Tokyo. Paper Planes is a simple story about following your dreams and finding beauty in the world. But it also cuts a little deeper to focus further on loss and moving forward. It moves along quickly enough to keep its youngest viewers engaged, whilst still offering something more for teens and adults.
All the requisite characters are here. The goofy teacher (Rowsthorn), the cute and inspiring girl (Ena Imai), the funny friend (Julian Dennison), the slightly crazy granddad (Terry Norris) and the dick rival who has the entire audience just praying he will get his comeuppance (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke). Throw in some well-known Australian actors as the grieving father (Sam Worthington), the one-time national paper plane champion (Deborah Mailman), and the famous father of the villain (David Wenham), and you’ve got yourself a decent bunch of supporting characters. Ed Oxenbould’s performance occasionally comes across as stilted, but for the most part he seems right at home in the lead role. Time will tell if he’s more than just a child star.
Paper Planes is a film which will hopefully encourage kids to get back to basics. It doesn’t hide the fact that technology is a major influence on the lives of today’s youth – there is a gag about the excessive amount of time students spend on their mobile phones – but it also shows that there is much joy to be had from a mere piece of paper. There is also a positive message about how to treat others, and all viewers will be able to see that the bully kid here is a complete and utter wanker who doesn’t impress anyone. Take note, bullies! You’re embarrassing yourselves.
Australia is shown in all its glory – from a quiet dusty town in Western Australia to the brighter lights of Sydney. A locally made production for children that is sweet, funny, and full of valuable messages is well overdue. Let’s hope there isn’t quite such a delay until the next one.