Monday, 26 January 2015

Paper Planes (2015) - Movie Review

While the rest of Australia was busy celebrating how much this great country has developed from being “just bush” (Dammit, Abbott!), I was doing what I find myself on pretty much every major holiday: Watching a movie at my local cinema. However, it seems that my half-baked attempt at scheduling my movies for the week has given birth to a rather convenient coincidence. I originally planned on going out to see a Naruto film at the cinemas, but then I realized that I knew even less about Naruto than I did about DBZ when I reviewed that movie and since it was called “The Last”, chances are I would be more than a bit lost. As such, I instead went with today’s film which is an Australian production. This will probably be the only occasion where one of my reviews will be anywhere near the neighbourhood of timely, so let’s make the most of it.

The plot: Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) is an outback kid with an affinity for paper planes, so much so that he gets a chance to compete in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. With the support of his father Jack (Sam Worthington), Grandpa (Terry Norris) and fellow competitor Kimi (Ena Imai), he makes his way through the competition all the while facing against his rival Jason (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke).

Even for those not familiar with Australian actors, this is a decent cast list. Ed Oxenbould, fresh off the rather disappointing but ultimate harmless Alexander And The Freak From Suckweasel Mountain, does another good job here as our lead and actually managing to be one of the few child actors in recent memory who doesn’t suck on toast. Sam Worthington gives the same performance he did in Avatar, unfortunately, Terry Norris is charming and mischievous as Grandpa (Yeah, no actual name, he’s just credited as Grandpa), Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke does a good job as the stock sporting rival archetype and David Wenham is alright as his father.

However, the best actor in this film hands down is Peter Rowsthorn as Dylan’s teacher Mr Hickenlooper. Not only is he given the best lines, most of which seem to written just to make fun of the film itself, he also gives a great comedic performance and delivers them with the timing expected from a man who’s been in the business as long as he has. As someone who grew up on shows like Kath & Kim and The Comedy Company, it was very nice seeing Rowsthorn on the big screen.

The only real down point in terms of the acting is Ena Imai. Part of me wants to leave her alone, given how this is her film debut but, if films like Hugo and Kick-Ass have proven anything, it’s that younger actors can be held to the same standard as adults. Ena, to put it simply, sounds like she was never actually shown the script and learnt it all phonetically; it’s really awkward, especially with how she has a lot of scenes with the more than competent Ed Oxenbould.

If you have ever watched a film that involves a child in some form of competition, be it sporting or otherwise, then you could probably have filled the above plot summary yourself without having seen it. This film is filled with so many clichés borrowed from 80’s and 90’s kid’s films that, once this comes out on DVD, it could come packaged with bingo cards. From the eccentric grandparent to the now-hideously overplayed message about how winning isn’t everything, there’s a lot of derivation going on here all leading to one of the cheesiest endings in existence that I could not watch with any semblance of a straight face. This film plays its more ridiculous moments so straight, like in one of the earlier scenes when Dylan is first shown throwing a paper plane, that I honestly can’t tell if the film is aware of how silly it’s being. There is a possibility of that, given some of the jokes and the fact that this is a film centred around paper planes; it’s going to be bizarre regardless.

It is with this in mind that it was actually a pretty good move going with Japan as the setting for the World Championship, even if it enters some Ugly Australian territory when the film starts talking about paper production (I really hope this film doesn’t think that Japan is where paper was invented). Why? Because Japan is a country with that little a filter in its entertainment that only they could make this hobby epic enough to warrant being the subject of a film. Shonen anime and manga seems to run purely on rule of cool anyway, so it makes perfect sense that it would set there.

Going beyond the settings of the story, and since this has a pretty standard sports movie framework, we still have to deal with some of the more annoying aspects of the genre’s main premise. The most annoying part of it would have to be the subplot involving Jack. Said subplot largely fails to connect not so much because Sam Worthington is a bit of a weak actor (Although, that doesn’t help) but rather because he is written as that much of a deadbeat that I’m not even sure the writer knew why we should care about him. It has the usual Disney family situation with a dead parent and Jack and Dylan are only just starting to get over the death, and Jack is shown as ignoring Dylan during the majority of the championship, save for a tacked-on resolution during the cheese-tastic ending. It feels like a lot of elements that were meant to build on this relationship, along with a surprising amount of other relatively minor plot aspects, as if large chunks of the script were edited out to scale down the running time.

Which is a shame, because I honestly would have liked more of this. Yeah, as much as I am bitching about how clichéd this film is, it has a similar appeal to those old-school sporting movies in that the cheese is what makes it fun. It has a certain charm to it, along with its genuine sense of humour, that make it enjoyable; hell, as I type this up, I’m still giggling to myself over how over-the-top the ending was.

All in all, this is cinematic comfort food; nothing too substantial but filling enough for its purpose. With a decent cast and charming dialogue, it ploughs through its rather goofy premise with complete seriousness despite how bizarre it gets. It’s quite overblown and some of the plot moments feel half-baked, but over the course of the film’s duration it won me over and got me singing along to its operatic vocals; it’s on the more honest side of guilty pleasures.

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