Kiwi Flyer: Movie Review

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Kiwi Flyer is a New Zealand family movie which both grandparents and grandkids would enjoy. It will be out in time for the September school holidays.

The idea for making this movie came to Tony Simpson (The Director and Co-writer) after visiting his Father in Nelson a few years ago. They went to the Nelson Trolley Derby together. This iconic annual event first took place in the 1940’s. It now pulls in thousands of onlookers as homemade trolleys of all shapes and sizes and constructed out of all sorts of stuff race down Collingwood Street- the aim, to be crowned “Monarch of the Hill.”

Tony grew up in Nelson and took part in trolley racing there when he was a kid. He thought that this event could be turned into a great, fun, family kid’s movie. As he said

“There hasn’t been a history of those in New Zealand. I think the last one was about 26 years ago, so we thought Kiwi kids need to see some kiwi stories.”

The story he and his co-writer Andrew Gunn came up stars twelve year old Ben who is desperate to win the local trolley derby to honour his Father who had recently died. It turns out to be a huge learning curve as he has to battle cheating opponents, dodgy loan sharks and his Mum who initially bans him from taking part. But finally she relents and offers her support when she understands where Ben is coming from.

The writers wanted Kiwi Flyer to be not just entertaining but meaningful as Tony explains:

“The most challenging thing was making sure that this was more than a movie with comical gags, stunts and action. I’ve worked in children’s television for many years so I’m used to that sort of stuff. But to make the movie more cinematic we had to give it a heart and a spine and something with a little more depth.”  

This is why they put a focus on the close relationship between Ben and his Mum, including the thorny moments which are bound to occur as they both come to terms with their loss. And there are also lessons to learn from this movie, how to play fair and do your best, how to be a good mate, how bullies and cheats get their just rewards in the end, and how the path of a first love does not always run smoothly.

The young leads, Ben (Edward Hall) and his sidekick Jeff (Tikirau Hathaway) play their parts well and they became good mates while making the movie. The two Aussie bullies: Shayne (Doug Colling and Shannon (Myer van Gosliga) are so mean that the audience will love to hate them. They are encouraged to win by their Dad no matter what, even if this means cheating.

Aussie Dad is played by Vince Martin who has been a familiar face on our television screens as the Beaurepairs man for almost 25 years. He has acted in numerous soap operas and drama series overseas so is able to comfortably slip into this new role as an immoral father who has no qualms about dirty tricks. But he doesn’t entirely get away with it. As a bad guy he deserves his fate which is to have tyres thrown at him and to be sprayed with mud.

The other male part is played by Comedian Dai Henwood. As the school teacher he does not engage in the irreverent humour which was his hallmark on TV’s 7 days but is mischievous, impish and likeable. He is attracted to Tandi Wright (Ben’s Mum). She is bravely getting on with her life as a solo Mum and radiates warmth. Don McGlashin, an iconic New Zealand musician, wrote a beautiful score and theme song.

After seeing this movie Granddads may well have the urge to take a drive with their grandkids to the local recycling depot, or to wait for the inorganic rubbish collection to fossick around for any spare parts which could be recycled into a trolley. They might even get together with a few other granddads and grandkids and organise a trolley derby. As well as keeping them out of mischief this could be a lot of fun! And those who live in the vicinity of Nelson might even consider entering the next Nelson Derby.

Kiwi Trailer is distributed by Rialto. It opens in Cinemas on Thursday, 27th of September, 2012.