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Stars: Sam Worthington, Ed Oxenbould, Deborah Mailman, Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke, Ena Imai, Terry Norris, Peter Rowsthorn, Julian Dennison, David Wenham
Director: Robert Connolly
Experience has taught me that there are basically two types of children’s films – those that genuinely entertain accompanying adults and, all too often, family-movies aimed at persuading those luckless grown-ups trapped into watching them to pray for a power-cut.
So three cheers then for Australian cowriter (with Steve Worland) and director Robert Connolly for a charming family adventure that is a true unaffected delight for kids and adults alike.
Connolly cleverly avoids patronizing anyone with a happily uncynical comedy. (Interestingly, the film was part financed by Australian Lottery money: unlike far too many British movies funded by lottery funds, Paper Planes more than justifies spending public money – and, unlike the majority of British lottery funded films, Paper Planes has already flown high, and profitably too, Down Under.
The storyline is simple, straightforward and inspiring without ever becoming preachy or over-sentimental. 12-year-old Dylan (perfectly played by Ed Oxenbould) lives in rural New South Wales with his father (Sam Worthington) who, still traumatised by his wife’s death in a car accident five months previously, no longer works and spends his days at home sleeping and watching television.
Oxenbould has, of necessity, become self-reliant, looking after his father as best he can, feeding bacon strips to a friendly hawk and attending the local school.
(And, for those all too ready to mock Australian education, a teacher confiscates a mass of Iphones and tablets from his young pupils before setting down to instructing them).
His life changes when a visitor to the school shows the pupils how to make paper planes. Oxenbould’s airplane soars high and goes far and, hooked by an experience where he actually excels, the boy persuades his father to take him to compete in the regional trials for the World Paper Plane Championships in Sydney where his success takes him to the World Championships in Tokyo…
Happily Connolly, a likeable but not sugary-sweet leading lad, and a spot-on supporting cast save the story from turning into all-too-familiar Hollywood-style saccharine saturated mush.
But while there is the to-be-expected beastly bully attempting to sabotage Oxenbould’s ambitions and a tentative teen romance Paper Planes flies high on charm and cheerfulness, and is a real pleasure from start to finish.
Well-used Australian locations help create a credible background for the opening narrative, Worthington and the other adult actors (Terry Norris, in particular, is splendid as Oxenbould’s former WW2 flier grandfather who, after stealing an ambulance to take the lad to an airplane museum happily declares that he was “Cautioned, not arrested’ when the authorities catch up with them).
Connolly’s expertly realized, thankfully unpretentious blend of character, charm, comedy and honest emotional truth combine to create authentically appealing feel-good fun.
And all without subtitles either!
Australia 2014. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour.
94 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.
Review date: 23 Oct 2015