A boy who lost his mother in a car accident suffers from the destruction of his family. Then his fascination with flying lead him to national and international competitions for design and flight of paper airplanes. It is hard to take the film seriously with what look like CGI paper airplanes that do not seem to follow the laws of physics. The subject matter may be original, but the plot is familiar and predictable. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10.
There are children’s films and family films. A family film has to be good for a wide range of ages. Unfortunately, ‘Paper Planes’ makes some choices at the beginning that consign it to the children’s film category. Early on, a paper airplane makes a long graceful flight many times longer than the laws of physics would allow. We see the plane in flight and it looks very much CGI-ish. Children seeing this film may be able to suspend their disbelief to not be turned off by the film, but even children will know what they are seeing is not possible. If director and co-writer Robert Connolly wants to limit the film to fantasy, that is certainly his artistic right, but it weakens the film and in specific the positive messages the film has for the younger viewers. This film could have reached for the same power as Joe Johnston’s ‘October Sky’ or John G. Avildsen’s ‘The Karate Kid’ but it chose to limit itself to fantasy. Too little fantasy to compete with Disney but too much to be accepted as real by kids.
Dylan (played by Ed Oxenbould) had recently lost his mother to a car accident and his father (Sam Worthington of ‘Avatar’) has imploded and now drinks and morns so that he can barely get up in the morning. At school, Dylan’s mathematics teacher has the class try throwing paper airplanes. Dylan’s plane rises up and stays aloft almost supernaturally for many minutes doing things that paper airplanes just do not do. The teachers realise that Dylan has a supreme skill for understanding paper airplanes and put him on track for the national and international competitions for paper airplane design and flying. His understanding for flying things may stem from his special friendship with a semi-tame kite-hawk he passes on the way to school. But he has always loved planes and he fantasises about being a World War II pilot (to the tune of Ron Goodwin’s music for ‘Battle Of Britain’). That flying fascination will take Dylan to the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. Dylan’s appreciation for some of the smaller things of life keeps him off his Smartphone and instead thinking about paper airplanes. He must be fascinated by the new culture when he gets to Japan.
This film’s dialog is rather patronising to the audience. Children talk to each other giving the same advice that adults would give the children, adult arguments in children’s mouths. On the other hand, where the emotion of the film works best is in Dylan’s relationship with his father, bringing his young wisdom to the emotionally wounded father. It seems more like talking down to the audience when Dylan and a newly found friend Kimi (Ena Imai) discuss and try to tame bully, cheater and fellow competitor, Jason (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke). Jason is the son of a champion golfer, but failed to learn sportsmanship.
Some of the audience in the US may have trouble penetrating some of the thicker Australian pronunciation. Also, a bit of origami in the film should interest some outside the target audience. I rate ‘Paper Planes’ a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. Did the closing credit song really say, ‘Shake your booty, boys and girls, for the beauty in the world.’
‘Paper Planes’ is opening in Los Angeles and Atlanta beginning September 4 and will be available on demand and via digital download September 8.
Mark R. Leeper
(c) Mark R. Leeper2015