If I made a guess, I'd estimate that Postman Pat – the TV show – is aimed squarely at the smallest of children. Kids who aren't yet interested in killing aliens or shoe-wearing ponies. Little innocents who find joy in the adventures of a man and a cat who deliver mail.
So, it was a pleasant surprise that not only did I find the new Postman Pat movie enjoyable, but my four and seven year old daughters (neither of whom watch Postman Pat at home) declared the movie 'awesome' and then announced 'let's see it again'.
Postman Pat the movie, delivering the goods
Like all good kids movies, Postman Pat operates on two levels, one for the kids (plenty of falling over and swinging from things) and one for the parents who must accompany them (marriage jokes, jabs at stage parenting and sarcasm that will fly over the head of anyone under the age of ten).
And although the well-known and trippingly simple Postman Pat theme song makes an appearance, the soundtrack of this movie is surprisingly good with up to the minute boy bands and gentle old-style rock songs. It was more toe-tapping than I expected.
The basic premise of the movie is that Pat the Postman still hasn't taken his wife on a honeymoon, and so Pat enters a national talent competition (You're the One: a spoof of shows such as X Factor and 'The Voice') with the hopes of winning first prize: a trip to Italy.
Simon Cowbell is one of the judges, and he hates everyone and everything
Ignoring the fact that Pat and his wife Sarah have an eight or nine year old son Julian, which means that Pat has really neglected his husbandly duties as far as the tardy honeymoon is concerned, his original intention in entering the talent quest is very noble.
The scene where all the Greendale locals audition for the show (including singing sheep and rapping train-drivers not to mention Pat's big number) makes the entry price worth it, but the movie makers couldn't make it too easy for poor old Pat and his helpful cat, Jess, so they introduce not one, but two sub-themes, both involving cretins who are determined to do Pat in. Naturally.
One of the movie's villains, an efficiency expert with plans to take over the world ('people slow a company down… robots are the future!') is making changes at Pat's workplace, the Special Delivery Service. This involves cutbacks ('each tea bag must be used three times') and cost-cutting (the bathrooms are declared 'BYOP – bring your own paper') that many adults can relate to.
He also replaces Postman Pat with the PatBot300, a robot who can deliver the mail efficiently, and the CatBot, a truly terrifying character that had my four old sobbing into my lap.
The Catbot is nightmare material
The other storyline involves a teenage 'You're the One' finalist, who would much prefer to play on his GameBoy, and his overbearing father who has sacrificed everything for his son to be a star, and won't stop until he wins. Enough said.
There are plenty of general and physical gags to keep kids entertained and enough adult directed humour to amuse the grown-ups. The animation is excellent quality, and once the dizzying opening scene is over (I felt quite nauseous), the production is great. I did find myself glancing at my watch around 40 minutes in, but the pace picked up again and overall the 88 minutes go smoothly enough.
I felt the moral messages throughout the film a little heavy handed, and was rolling my eyes at the handwringing involved when Pat realised his celebrity lifestyle had made him neglect his wife and son. At this very point though, as I was madly writing notes for this review I realised my little girl was terrified at the army of robots and so I followed the advice of the film, put my pen down and pulled my little girl onto my lap. So I missed a bit of the film, sorry.
The robots are a little freaky, especially when they are en masse, and the cat robot is really creepy. If you have very sensitive young children who love Postman Pat, you need to be aware that the movie is much more complicated, violent and scarier than the TV show. Older kids will probably think it's cool, if you can convince them to come in the first place though. A lot of the irony and sarcasm will be missed by the target audience, but you have to give parents a reason to see it too.
Celebrity threatens to overwhelm our humble postie
All in all, the Postman Pat film isn't a bad way to spend an hour and a half with your kids. Ronan Keating is the singing voice of Pat, and there are some great tunes, so you can always just close your eyes and enjoy the soundtrack.