Dylan (Ed Oxenbauld) is a young boy that finds happiness in the simpler things of life. He is much more likely to be thrilled at being able to feed a bird of prey a piece of bacon then he is to want to use the latest iPhone, something that classmates like Kevin (Julian Dennison) just can’t understand.
It’s therefore no surprise that Dylan becomes interested in a sport that many haven’t even heard of – the art of paper-plane throwing. When an exercise held at his school shows that Dylan has the ability to become a champion at the sport he jumps at the opportunity and is quickly aided by his Grandfather (Terry Norris) and his schoolteacher, Mr. Hickenlooper (Peter Rowsthorn).
But despite showing a real knack for the sport Dylan still has a couple of obstacles to overcome – an over-zealous fellow competitor, Jason (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke), who is determined to become World Champion no matter what it takes and the fact that his grieving father, Jack (Sam Worthington), can never pluck up the energy to take him to any of the competitions or to even show that he cares about his son’s chosen sport.
The question over how to make Australian cinema popular again in its own country has been something that has been raging for nearly two years. Director Robert Connolly himself was a victim of the cultural cringe that seems to prevent Australians wanting to watch their own films with his last film The Turning. While The Turning had a stellar cast and seemed to receive good critiques from most film critics it still didn’t do as well at the box office as it should. Of course the one Australian film that was embraced by the natives was Red Dog, a family friendly flick that had most people crowing. So it seems now Robert Connolly, who is known for edgier films like The Bank and Balibo, has decided to also go down the family film path and has created a delightful take in Paper Planes.
Now to be brutally honest if somebody said to you ‘hey, do you want to go and see a film about paper plane flying’ you would have every right to question whether or not it’s the kind of film that you want to depart with your hard-earned cash to go and see in the cinema. But the good news is that Paper Planes is such a great watch that it is certainly a film that you will want to see in the cinema.
Connolly does so much right with this film it is amazing… it is almost the perfect family flick. He keeps things light for his younger audience with the romance between Dylan and Kimi (Ena Imai) never really going further than the trusted friends stage. At the same time though Connolly is very aware that this is the kind of film that an audience of all ages will be watching so isn’t afraid to go a little heavier as it looks at how a grieving father lost in his own world can also affect his children. Connolly also has the knack of inserting some adult orientated jokes, like the Grandfather being the Cassanova of the retirement home, with them being so subtle that little eyes and ears are not even going to be able to pick up on them. And yes there may be some lamer lines that have slipped through the script editing process, and yes it is also fairly obvious that this film sticks to a formula made famous by films like The Karate Kid, but at the end of the day this is a film that is highly enjoyable despite the fact that the sign posts generally show the audience which way the film is going to turn next.
Acting wise Paper Planes is full of gems. Anyone who watches television show Puberty Blues knows that the very cheeky, but very talented Ed Oxenbould has been a star-on-the-rise for a while. Here in Paper Planes he once again shows audience, just like he did when he starred with Steve Carell in Alexdander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, that he is going to become one of Australia’s biggest acting talents of all time. Here he puts in a truly heartfelt performance above his years and he is well supported by his other young co-star Julian Dennison who seems to have perfect comedic timing.
Sam Worthington leads the adult cast well and credit should be paid to him not only for putting in such a good performance but also because he took the time out of his Hollywood schedule to come back home and make a family film… something it is pretty obvious that some Australian actors would deem to be beneath them. Deborah Mailman once again reminds audiences that she can be a comedic actress when it is called of her, while it is also good to see Terry Norris back on the big screen after so long on the small screen. David Wenham and Peter Rowsthorn are also credible in their roles as well.
Paper Planes is a beautiful looking and well-written family film that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Sure there is the odd cliché splattered throughout the film, but the comedic moments hit their mark while some of the drama-filled scenes between a grief-stricken father and his well-adjusted son are a true reminder of just how good Australian cinema can be when you have talent on both sides of the camera. This is one of the better family films to have surfaced in a long time.
Director: Robert Connolly
Starring: Ed Oxenbauld, Julian Dennison, Sam Worthington, Terry Norris, Peter Rosethorn, David Wendham, Deborah Mailman, Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke
Running Time: 96 minutes
Date of Release: TBA