Movie Review | Paper Planes (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Freda Cooper 23.10.2015

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Paper Planes (UK Rating: U)

Anybody heard of the World Paper Planes Championships? Believe it or not, the event really does exist, and it's partly the inspiration behind the new family film, Paper Planes, which is released in selected cinemas on Friday, 23rd October.
Image for Movie Review | Paper Planes (Lights, Camera, Action!)

More specifically, the film's based on Dylan Parker, who took part in the 2009 championships. His story was turned into an episode of a TV series, Fly with Me, which was seen by film director Robert Connolly, and the result is Paper Planes, with Parker as an advisor. In the film, twelve-year-old Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) lives in The Outback with his dad (Sam Worthington). Dylan is fascinated by wildlife, and his granddad was a pilot in World War II, so flying is in his blood, and it shows in his talent for paper planes. It also helps him forget that life at home isn't wonderful - his mum died recently and his father is struggling to cope - and it ultimately opens up a whole new world for him.

The result is a multi-layered film viewed very much through the eyes of Dylan and the other children. It starts with his talent for making something special out of a simple A4 sheet of paper: his first attempt is like a dream sequence, flying so far that it seems impossible. Then there's his big adventure in the outside world, taking him first of all to Sydney, and then to Japan, a genuinely foreign land in all senses of the word, and the third layer is his relationship with his dad. The boy misses his mum deeply, yet seems to be coping much better than the so-called adult: all his dad can do is think about how bad he feels and that comes first, above everything, but this is a warm-hearted film, so it's a given that things will work out fine in the end.

In true Australian style, the film deliberately dodges sentiment and sugar, even if it does teeter on the brink with its soft focus memories of the mother. Instead, there's a younger version of the "mate" culture, coupled with a fresh and energetic approach, and that energy isn't confined to the youngsters. Dylan's granddad, living in a residential home, is something of a ladies' man with a roguish twinkle in his eye, so when the boy puts on a garage sale to raise money for his trip to Japan, granddad arrives accompanied by half a dozen lady friends, all bearing trays of homemade cakes to sell, and it's all done to the soundtrack of Kelis' Milkshake

Where it falls down is in its special effects, which simply aren't up to the standard of the rest of the movie. The flying planes in the competitions don't convince: the film may have an endearing simplicity, but that's no excuse, and the same applies to the recurring close-ups of a bird of prey in flight, which is a shame because they undermine what is otherwise a good looking film.

Image for Movie Review | Paper Planes (Lights, Camera, Action!)

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Paper Planes is proper family fodder for the holiday week and it has no pretention to be otherwise. It also brings something new to the genre with its lack of sentiment and refreshing approach, plus it's nicely acted and has its heart in the right place. It could easily turn out to be the surprise high-spot of the half term cinema calendar.

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