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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
What's the story?
Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) discovers he has a knack for making PAPER PLANES. He has a chance to compete in a world championship, but he'll have to help rally his grieving dad, Jack (Sam Worthington), and face bullies and self-doubt to do so. Along the way, friends, mentors, and a trip to Tokyo help him rethink his old ideas about what it means to try, what it means to win, and the importance of releasing something beautiful into the world.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about winning. What does Paper Planes say about winning? Do you agree with it? Why, or why not?
What helps Dylan approach plane-making creatively? Have you ever entered a competition of any kind? What was it? What was the outcome?
How does the film portray bullying? Is it like bullying in real life? How should you handle bullies?
- In theaters: September 4, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: September 8, 2015
- Cast: Sam Worthington, Ed Oxenbould
- Director: Robert Connolly
- Studio: Entertainment One
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Friendship, Great boy role models
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.