Kiwi Flyer Rebecca-Barry'S REVIEW

Every kid dreams of flying. The next best thing must be whizzing down a steep slope in a contraption of your own making. For the young actors in Tony Simpson’s Kiwi Flyer, the first local film for kids since The Silent One 27 years ago, the chance to do just that in a screen version of Nelson’s yearly Trolley Derby must have been an unforgettable experience.

Viewers will no doubt get warm fuzzies too – this is a feel-good family flick featuring all the hallmarks of the genre. Unless you count a couple of hairy moments the kids endure on the open road, Simpson and co-writer Andrew Gunn’s script plays it safe, combining drama with broad comedy and slapstick, flying poo included.

Twelve-year-old Ben (Edward Hall) is up against a legion of baddies who feel pretty familiar: the smug Aussie cheats, their smug Aussie dad (a dastardly comic Vince Martin in a role parents will enjoy as much as the kids), the dodgy loan sharks who help get Ben’s venture off the ground, and a mum who isn’t keen on the idea of him entering the derby at all (Tandi Wright in a warm and nuanced performance). Dai Henwood also shows he’s capable of stepping outside his comfort zone as the kids’ kind, geeky teacher, himself an underdog in the romance department.

As you’d expect, obstacles arise at the worst possible moments, hopes are dashed and relationships tested. And like all decent family flicks, deeper messages are at play about the value of friendship, determination and choosing right over wrong.

It doesn’t always matter that the less experienced members of the cast, many of them new faces from Nelson, aren’t consistently slick, or that there are more silly, whoopsie-daisy moments than an episode of Mr Bean. Kiwi Flyer makes up for that with its big climactic race scene, big heart and big sense of adventure.