VOD film review: Paper Planes
Clichéd but effective script7
Matthew Turner | On 24, Oct 2015
Director: Robert Connolly
Cast: Sam Worthington, Ed Oxenbould, Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke, Ena Imai, David Wenham, Julian Dennison
Watch Paper Planes online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Sky Store / Google Play
Co-written and directed by Robert Connolly, Paper Planes is an unashamedly feel-good Australian children’s movie that knows exactly which buttons to press.
Set in present-day New South Wales, it benefits from a plot that won’t confuse younger children and features a winning performance from rising star Ed Oxenbould (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day). He plays 12 year-old Dylan, whose father, Jack (Worthington), has become depressed and withdrawn since the death of Dylan’s mother in a car accident.
When Dylan learns how to fold paper aeroplanes at school, his first attempt produces an extremely impressive solo flight, prompting him to enter the regional stage of the World Paper Planes Championships. He prepares with bully-turned-friend Kevin (a scene-stealing Julian Dennison), hoping to make it all the way to the international finals in Tokyo. Along the way, Dylan strikes up a bond with fellow competitor Kimi (Imai) and has to contend with obnoxious rival Jason (Bakopoulos-Cooke), whose father (Wenham) is a famous golfer. Meanwhile, Dylan struggles to interest Jack in his plane-flying progress and wonders if they’ll ever be able to reconnect.
Oxenbould makes for a charming and likeable lead, generating strong chemistry with each of his co-stars and convincingly conveying the basic pleasure of flying a paper aeroplane. Connolly’s direction serves a similar purpose and the (admittedly CGI-assisted) flying sequences are nicely handled, while the script subtly chips in on the importance of simple things – in one pointed moment, the teacher (Peter Rowsthorn) makes his class hand in their phones and electronic devices before their lesson starts.
The supporting cast are equally good, particularly David Wenham, who takes what could have been the ‘pushy famous dad’ role in a refreshingly different direction, while veteran actor Terry Norris gets some cheap but effective laughs as Dylan’s crotchety grandpa. Worthington is as wooden as ever, but the script cleverly disguises his usual lack of spark by having him play a character who’d rather spend the day sleeping on the sofa.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with clichés, provided they are marshalled correctly, and although the film does layer on the “It’s the taking part” message a little too heavily, Connolly ensures that all his emotional moments hit home. Any sports drama stands or falls on whether its competition sequences can make you do an air-punch – either literally or figuratively – and on that score, Paper Planes passes with flying colours.