Twelve-year-old Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) lives in country Australia. When a teacher challenges the class to design paper airplanes for a local competition, Dylan is surprised to discover he has a natural talent for the activity. His plane flies right out of sight. After this, Dylan’s goal becomes competing in paper plane events, however he is hindered by several obstacles. His home is far from the city where the state finals will be held. He has no money to pay for his transportation. His father Jack (Sam Worthington) is unemployed and perpetually depressed.
Jack used to be more present in Dylan’s life when his wife (Dylan’s mother) was alive. Now Jack finds it difficult to keep a job. He is grieving and has withdrawn from day to day living. Dylan wants his father back and does what he can to motivate him. The other male role-model in Dylan’s life is his grandfather (Terry Norris) a former military pilot with a roguish streak. He helps his grandson to raise some of his travel funds.
PAPER PLANES is a children’s film made with the aim of engaging its young audience with a solid tale of a likeable character. From the get-go there will no one in the cinema who isn’t behind Dylan. The boy plugs away at his difficulties and succeeds through perseverance. Writer-director Robert Connolly aimed to make a children’s feature with an Australian hero. It has a definite Aussie feel to it, with its sunbaked rural locations and in Dylan’s laconic attitude to tackling his problems. Chips Rafferty’s DNA is in there somewhere. Having said that, I was also reminded of movies like THE MIGHTY DUCKS and THE (original) KARATE KID.
The film is aimed at older kids around the main character’s age. The story unfolds gently and steadily, rather than grabbing the audience by the metaphorical lapels and shouting. Ed Oxenbould does a lovely job as Dylan. Terry Norris is winning in his feisty old man role and Peter Rowsthorn gets laughs as Dylan’s teacher Mr Hickenlooper. The other competing kids, Nicholas Bakopolous-Cooke and Ena Imai also acquit themselves well.
PAPER PLANES has the makings of a classic kids’ film with its confident combination of comedy and hero’s journey. It is 96 minutes of quality entertainment that will delight family audiences. I rated it 7/10