Movie Review: Paper Planes

This is going to be a short post because I had an incredibly busy day, having been in both Traralgon and the city for various reasons. I have a few things up my sleeves, but for now here’s a mini review of the Australian film Paper Planes. My mum brought Paper Planes home from her school library for the weekend because one of her colleagues suggested that it would be a good film to study at year 7. It is a great film to study at year 7, I definitely agree with that. It’s about a boy who discovers he’s really good at folding paper planes (hence the title of the film), and goes to the World Championships in Japan! And also about his relationship with his father. This is an Australian film, so we see the usual stalwarts, in this case David Wenham and Deborah Mailman.

Paper Planes is far from a perfect film, but at least it’s fun. Dylan lives in outback New South Wales, and one day a hipster student teacher from Melbourne named Jethro (this film is so on point) comes in to teach his class how to fold the perfect paper plane. They each make a plane, and Dylan’s goes the furthest, and he wants to get into the junior championships. There’s a class bully called Kevin, who became Dylan’s friend when they launched a rocket together. After his initial success, Dylan is having issues with his paper planes, so he studies other things that fly – there’s a toy plane and the rocket in the garage. Dylan’s dad is depressed and not leaving the couch after his wife died five months earlier. He sleeps through his son’s qualifying round, then goes to Sydney for the national championships and never leaves the hotel. When Dylan makes it to the World Championships in Japan, they have a garage sale which doesn’t go well until Dylan’s grandpa (who also stole an ambulance to escape his nursing home and break into the air museum with his grandson) gets all his girlfriends from the nursing home to bake scones.

They have enough money for one ticket! Someone wants to buy the piano, but it belonged to Dylan’s mother, so Sam Worthington didn’t want to sell it. Dylan goes to Japan by himself and learns how paper is made because I guess these people are really into paper? Oh, also the bully whose father is David Wenham, champion golfer, pushes Dylan down the stairs and he sprains his wrist. He gets acupuncture, leaves a heartfelt message for his dad, who sells the piano and flies to Tokyo, and wins the championship!

It’s a really good thing that this film is funny (Grandpa and Kevin are my heroes and I would watch a movie about those two hanging out – also Peter Rowsthorn, who probably asked if he could have his face painted in that scene), because there were some problems, mainly regarding race. I don’t think they were intentional, but I feel the need to point it out, because one thing made me quite uncomfortable. My first issue was that Kevin, an Aboriginal kid, was the bully, but then he bonded with Dylan over nearly being killed by a rocket, so that all worked out. Then when they went to Sydney, there was a Japanese girl who spouted wise words like proverbs and showed Dylan how to make origami. These children are all of twelve and they were speaking like Arts students. I don’t think the writer and/or director meant for it to play that way, but the wise Asian is a stereotype, and there was an element of the exotic there as well.

All in all, this film is fine. The special effects are sub-par, but that’s okay, I kind of like it more because of that. More Kevin and Grandpa, less Orientalism and we’ll be good.

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