Film and drama

Screen Themes: Paper Planes vs The Princess Bride

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As school holidays finally come to a close, entertainment editor John Turnbull takes a look at the new Australian movie Paper Planes and the adventure classic The Princess Bride, along with two age-appropriate reviewing partners.

Paper Planes (2015)

In case you were wondering, the World Paper Plane Championships is a real thing. It’s also sponsored by an energy drink that gets altogether too much publicity on supposedly credible news websites, so I’ll leave you to find it yourself if you’re interested.

Directed by Robert Connolly, writer/director of The Bank and Three Dollars, Paper Planes is a film with layers. Somewhat like an onion. On the surface, it’s a feel-good kids film about the value of friendship, overcoming adversity and thinking for yourself, among other worthy themes. On another level it’s a charming Billy Elliott style story of achievement in country Australia, filled with quirky characters and beautiful locations.

Under the surface it’s a story about loss and mental illness, and the disastrous effects that loss can have on a family.

Young lead Ed Oxenbould (currently also starring with Steve Carell in Alexander and the overly long title) is engaging as determined dreamer Dylan, carrying the film through a few slow patches including an unneccessary pre-teen romance and overly long scenic tour of Sydney. 

Sam Worthington takes a break from filming back to back Avatar sequels to play Dylan’s father Jack, a man who has lost his wife and fallen into a deep depression. He spends most of the day lying on the couch watching sport, both live and on a library of VHS video tapes. The word depression is never mentioned in the script, but his symptoms are clear for anyone who has encountered the condition.

The supporting cast is a who’s who of Australian TV talent, including Deborah Mailman as competition MC and former paper plane champion Maureen, Peter Rowsthorn, as wacky teacher Mr Hickenlooper and David Wenham as ex-golfer Patrick. Wenham is also the father of the antagonist, an unlikeable dickbag named Jason, who is more concerned with the transient glory of the Paper Plane World Championship over the lasting joy of friendship.

Maybe the positive messages are a little heavy handed, but as an adult I enjoyed Paper Planes.

What do the kids think? I spoke to two young people who have asked to be identified by their middle names.

Danger (8):

"I liked when Dylan and his Grandfather got into the old plane and suddenly they were in the war! And I liked when the girl fell into the pool when she threw her plane."

Angel (5):

"I liked when the Grandpa broke into the door and Dylan asked how many crimes he had done and the Grandpa said four. And when Dylan said it was good getting arrested with him."

The Grandpa in question is played by Terry Norris, originally known for his work in TV series Bellbird and Cop Shop during the seventies, then as Labor member for Noble Park and Dandenong between 1982 and 1992. Norris is charming as the womanising, breaking and entering retiree, breaking out of his nursing home and stealing an ambulance to take Dylan to a museum of the air.

All in all, Paper Planes is a quality family movie enjoyed by adults and children alike.

Rating: JT: 7/10; Danger: 8/10; Angel: Good (doesn’t understand ratings out of ten yet).

The Princess Bride (1987)

Directed by Rob Reiner (This is Spinal Tap), The Princess Bride is a swashbuckling adventure that harks back to the era of Errol Flynn. It’s also a movie that celebrates the art of storytelling, starting out with an old man (Peter Falk) telling his grandson (Fred Savage) a story.

This old timey approach was too much for Danger, who left the room in disgust to go and play video games. "You don’t know what you’re missing!" I called after him.

Angel was prepared to give the movie the benefit of the doubt on the strength of the title and we settled in to the tale of love, intrigue and betrayal.

The story within a story stars Carey Elwes as the heroic Westley, also known as the Dread Pirate Roberts, Mandy Patinkin as the revenge driven Inigo Montoya, and Andre the Giant as his companion Fezzik. Inigo is responsible for most of the quotes people remember from this movie, including"

"Inconceivable. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Along with the iconic:

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

A 21 year old Robin Wright makes her movie debut as Buttercup, the beautiful Princess torn between her childhood love and the dastardly Prince Humperdink, played with scene-chewing relish by Chris Sarandon. Humperdink’s chief lackey is Count Rugen, played by Christopher Guest, better known as Nigel out of Spinal Tap. Angel thought he looked like a donkey.

Director Rob Reiner, also responsible for A Few Good Men and When Harry Met Sally, is true to many classic swashbuckler tropes including the ridiculously long sword fight, the battle against seemingly insurmountable odds and the witty banter as the heroes undertake their quest. Patinkin and Elwes excel in this battle of wits, less so the French-born Andre Roussimoff who is often incomprehensible and in need of subtitles.

So what did the kids think of this classic? 

Well, Danger came back in mid-way through a fight scene and stayed for twenty minutes, Angel got bored after 45 minutes but asked to watch the rest of the movie the following day. And then again the next day. And the next…


"I liked the princess. She was pretty. And I liked the guy with the ponytail who saved the princess, but he looked funny with a ponytail."

For me, The Princess Bride holds up as a classic adventure, but the framing device of the storytelling grandfather could be dropped without any problem. Fred Savage wasn’t any less annoying before he got the gig on The Wonder Years

Rating: JT: 8/10; Danger: 7/10 for the sword fight; Angel: really liked it — new favourite movie.

You can follow John Turnbull on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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