Film review: Kiwi Flyer

FITS THE BILL: From left, Tikirau Hathaway , Edward Hall, Tandi Wright and Dai Henwood in Kiwi Flyer.
FITS THE BILL: From left, Tikirau Hathaway , Edward Hall, Tandi Wright and Dai Henwood in Kiwi Flyer.

KIWI FLYER (87 min) (G)
Directed by Tony Simpson
Starring Tandi Wright, Vince Martin, Dai Henwood, Edward Hall.

When I was a kid, growing up in the flat, weatherboard-clad streets of suburban Hamilton, a trip to the movies was still a huge treat. I can't remember every one of the children's films I saw any more than I can remember every film I've seen as an adult.

But I do know when I made the transition. I was 7. My mum and dad had been arguing all Saturday morning. Sometime in the early afternoon, my dad came and fetched me, drove me into town, and got us a couple of tickets to The Man With the Golden Gun.

Looking back now, the Roger Moore James Bonds are pretty atrocious, and The Man With the Golden Gun is bad even by their standards. But I was entranced, and for one brief moment, because no-one in my classroom at Insoll Ave primary had seen it, I might even have been a bit cool.

For the next couple of years, I'd go to a movie whenever I could. I'd grown out of cartoons, but during the 1970s, there were a lot of films made specifically for kids - or so it seemed - and I happily sat through them all. They generally featured a plucky kid, often orphaned, or living with a similarly plucky single parent, having to rise to some sort of challenge to defeat the bad guys, save the fortunes of the family, and teach the adults a few lessons about courage and honour.

I watched a generation of young actors foil jewel thieves, kidnappers and pirates, emerge victorious, and then get hoisted up on the shoulders of some nearby father-figure, declared a hero, and told they can have all the lemonade they want. (Or, in the rare cases the lead was a girl, substitute ''all the lemonade they want'' for ''a pony'') The stories were simple, the morals were unambiguous, and the endings were as predictable as the tides. It was a long time ago.

So you'll understand if I tell you that, watching Kiwi Flyer, I did have a moment when I kind of drifted off, and just for a blink, I would have sworn I was back in Hamilton, in the Regent Theatre, working my way through a bag of Pineapple Lumps. It's just that kind of film.

Ben is 12 years old. He lives with his mum. A few years ago, his strong and handsome dad died while helping him build a trolley for the Nelson trolley derby.

And ever since then, Ben has been forbidden from entering the annual event. But this year, in the face of fearsome opposition from some dastardly cheating Aussies, Ben is going to complete The Kiwi Flyer, and he's going to race. 

Do I need to let you know what happens, or how it all ends? Of course not. But I can at least tell you that Kiwi Flyer, resolutely old fashioned though it may be, is not without its charms.

Tandi Wright and Edward Hall are good in their roles, while Vince Martin - him from the tyre ads - is more than sufficiently hammy as the villainous Aussie dad.

The whole enterprise looks and sounds fine, a couple of the racing sequences are quite well staged, and everyone I sat in the audience with seemed well happy with the ending. If you have a 7 or 8-year-old in your life, and you're looking for a school holiday movie quite free of wizards, vampires, robots, or even special effects, then I would suggest that Kiwi Flyer will fit the bill.

It might even inspire a few kids to put down the PlayStation and have a crack at building a trolley. And that could only be a good thing, eh?

The Dominion Post