Paper Planes Review - Not As Silly As It Sounds

Incredibly flimsy, but idealistic enough to work

Rating: ˜…˜…˜… Did you know there's such a thing as The Paper Plane Championships? Well there is, apparently, and while the idea of an organised event where people try and throw a folded A4 sheet of paper the furthest may sound a little (read: very) ridiculous, that's something Paper Planes doesn't flirt with once. From the moment Dylan discovers he has some skill in making/throwing paper planes right through to the internationally televised final, everyone is immediately supportive, willing him to follow his bizarre dream. The closest the film gets to even alluding to derision is with the mocking of an abnormal plane design, which is immediately shouted down with boos. Paper Planes simply has no time for desperately justifying its eponymous pastime (something other films about obscure competitions spend their entire run time on), and in doing so actually provides a much bigger endorsement than screaming endlessly about legitimacy would ever do. In simply presenting it as a sport, reliant on skill and training, and juxtaposing it with references to Aussie favourites like cricket, rugby and golf, you do begin to accept it's silly central hobby as a legitimate pastime.
It is, in many ways, a typical sports drama, but this constant idealism makes it somewhat refreshing - a story about individualism and altruism as much as a fable about winning not being everything. But it also means that the film's rather lacking in that key drama department - the ignorance of the silliness is just the tip of the childlike obviousness: Dylan's Dad (Sam Worthington - fine enough), who is in a spiral of depression following his wife's death, is endlessly supportive of his son's odd hobby; a mean classmate becomes the best of friends after one brief exchange; the police let Dylan and his Grandfather off for trespassing because they're friendly. There's even a hotel with a glass-walled bathroom, which, while innocuous, is an incredibly trusting design choice. This aims to be a very family friendly film (albeit one with a highly sexually charged running joke), so this overwhelming niceness is partially to expected. But when everything's so optimistic and consistently goes to plan it begins to feel increasingly contrived when the film tries to up the stakes; the third act throws up several relationship barriers - father-son conflicts, bullying - without any set-up that land far from the target As time goes by it just becomes harder and harder for gleeful tone to wipe out the many problems; poor child acting (although Ed Oxenbould, the kid from last month's The Visit, is a game lead and isn't rapping this time) and clear restrictions on the effects of the flying planes really begin to wear after a while. It's still a "nice" film, but, at the end of the day, no amount of earnest delivery will make the idea of paper planes being treated as an ancient sport, with coloured sheets unwrapped using a Japanese sword to gasps from the crowd, not seem ridiculous.
Paper Planes is in UK cinemas from October 23rd.
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Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.