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Movie Review: Paper Planes

Roslyn Hull

“I was so excited I forgot to eat my popcorn.”  James, aged 9.

Any movie can have a synopsis – I thought that quote from my nephew was a much better lead in for this week’s review. Says all you need to know, really.

This is not a new story – it is your typical hero’s journey, or as we call it, a Disney film:

An underdog ✓ who has lost one parent ✓ and the remaining parent is less than perfect✓ works hard to cope with his lot. He is a loner at school, completely uncool until he discovers a talent ✓, and enters a chance-of-a-lifetime competition ✓. There are setbacks and pitfalls along the way✓ but, because he is a hero, he makes friends and has (non-stereotypical) mentors✓ and a love interest ✓to show the villain ✓the error of his ways.

No, not new. What makes it unusual is that it is Australian – and that is very important!

In the USA (and here, I suspect) there is a generation of children who speak Spanish because of Dora the Explorer, and all over the world there are children who spell and pronounce words like a home-grown American because of Sesame Street. Never underestimate the importance of the characters that influence our children.

Now imagine you are 10 and you see a hero up on screen who not only sounds like you, he is wearing a school uniform like you, your dinosaur PJs from Target and riding a bike like yours. Although (hopefully) his life is even tougher than yours.

Then he starts doing astounding things like shooting for the stars, using his brain, being creative, independent, standing up to bullies and proving that any goal can be achieved. He even gets the girl.

There is magic and luck, charm and about all a good heart here. The filmmakers have tried very hard not to talk down to or underestimate their audience. Not something I have ever been able to say about an Australian children’s film before. Australian TV for kids is world class but our films have not lived up to that, with a few rare exceptions.

Now do you see why I say this is important? Don’t just take my word for it though, check out this great review in the Sydney Morning Herald.

And it just gets better – it has its own website with bite size pieces of trivia, activities, videos and games.

The cast is amazing – Sam Worthington and the whimsical Terry Norris are standouts but then so is Debra Mailman, Peter Rowsthorn, David Wenham, and of course Ed Oxenbould as our hero. The adult actors have leant their weight and prestige to the production (Eric Bana is also a producer) but it is the young cast that really carries the story. Ed was Alexander, who had a Terrible, Horrible … Day which I reviewed before Christmas. I will reiterate what I said then. He is the real thing, not a quirky/cute child star but a good actor who is an ordinary kid, someone his audience can readily identify with and cheer for when he wins through.

Just don’t pay too much attention to the continuity; it will do your head in.

So this Australia Day, forget the lamb on the barbie and go to the pictures (as my dad would call it). Celebrate the talent and enthusiasm that makes our country great. But don’t go because you feel you must, go because, as James would say:

“It’s awesome!”


Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author

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