Predictable but touching Aussie kids' film, with Ed Oxenbould and Sam Worthington
These days kids' films are largely confined to computer-animated adventures or YA fantasy. So there’s something heartening about Australian director Robert Connolly’s feel-good drama Paper Planes. Set in New South Wales, the hero is Dylan (Ed Oxenbould), a 12-year-old whose problems are all too real. After his mother's death in a car accident, his father Jack (Sam Worthington) has sunk into a depression.
Fortunately, school proves a distraction – not least when an origami expert arrives to give a demonstration in paper plane folding. Dylan’s effort stays in the air the longest, and he becomes enamoured with this old-fashioned art-form. Soon enough, he’s competing in the regional heats, where he’s plagued by Jason (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke), an ultra-competitive rival, but also manages to befriend a cute Japanese girl called Kimi (Ena Imai).
David Wenham (who worked with Connolly on Three Dollars and The Bank) is a smart addition to the cast as Patrick, Jason’s golf pro father who isn’t nearly as win-at-all-costs as his son. Meanwhile, Worthington’s grief-stricken dad lends the film just the right amount of edge to ensure it never tips towards the sickly-sweet.
While there are minor hiccups along the way, the outcome is never really in doubt, as Dylan aims to reach the World Paper Plane Championships in Tokyo – a real event that inspired Connolly and co-writer Steve Worland’s script, as did the success of Dylan Parker, the Australian bronze medallist from the 2009 competition. Still, it's hard to resent a film for hitting obvious beats (or for the rather second-rate CGI in the plane-flying scenes) when its heart is so firmly in the right place. Led by Oxenbould – who previously appeared alongside Steve Carell in 2014’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – there’s a day-dreamy quality to Paper Planes that makes it a pleasure to watch.
General release from Fri 23 Oct.