A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Perseverance; allowing people to process grief at their own pace; autonomy; standing up to bullies; being a good sport; winning versus performing at a level you can take pride in.
Positive Role Models
Dylan is a smart, kind, wise, sensitive kid who cares about others and stands up for his friends. He steals money from his dad's wallet to get a ticket to a competition but is grounded. Adults are engaged and present, although dad Jack is largely too grief-struck to parent and Grandpa breaks the law to show Dylan a good time. All are well-intentioned and realistically flawed. Other characters have unexpected depth, such as the father stand-in for a plane-making competitor who helps his faux son understand how to be a good sport and a girlfriend who shows Dylan how to appreciate more than simply winning.
Violence & Scariness
A boy pushes another boy down the stairs; he sprains his ankle, is treated with acupuncture. Mild bullying includes boys taunting and intimidating, tossing paper at one another, or flicking things. Boy and grandfather imagine flying a fighter plane in WWII, dodging bullets and nearly crashing. Some discussion of a dead mother, who was killed in a car accident.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Man and woman kiss briefly.
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"Hell," "loser," "sucks."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Dad appears to be hungover upon waking up.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Paper Planes is a thoughtful, spirited look at competition and perseverance that features a plucky Australian boy and his grief-stricken dad muddling through the mom's death in a car accident (not shown, only discussed) to win a paper plane-making competition. Grief looms large over the film; it keeps dad Jack from doing much to guide his son. Dylan steals from his father and subverts the rules -- as does his grandfather on occasion to have a good time -- but the film is overwhelmingly an uplifting look at overcoming grief and fear, standing up for yourself and others, and rethinking the very idea of winning for the sake of winning. There is some mild profanity ("hell," "sucks") and bullying. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This movie manages to blend a heavy premise with an inspired look at what creativity really means and what winning ought to be about. Paper Planes is beautifully shot with multiple settings in Australia and Tokyo, and it blends cultures beautifully with an obvious appreciation for the Japanese approach to paper-making and the innate satisfaction of simply working hard to be good at an art form, whether you're exceptional at it or not. Throughout the film Dylan -- who makes for an exceptional child actor -- studies origami, flying, and paper-making, and he does a deep dive into the essence of the art and science of the craft. The ending isn't particularly unexpected, but it offers a few twists on how most of us are taught to approach competition and creativity, as well as some strongly positive modeling about friendship, bullying, and sportsmanship that far outweigh the heavier themes.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.