Postman Pat: The Movie review

Review Simon Brew 13 May 2014 - 06:13

The much beloved Postman Pat finally makes his way to the big screen. But is it worth the wait?

It's better than the trailer, let's start there. After all, the big screen debut of Postman Pat suffered from an early promo that suggested the film was not one to look forward to. As it turns out, there are merits to the Postman Pat movie, which at times feels as much like the beneficiary of a Doctor Who script conference as a stint watching children's telly. But ultimately, for all the nods to other movies (Faster Pussycat Kill Kill being the most bizarre), and for all the ideas, Pat falls just a little flat when it matters.

It starts promisingly enough. We meet Pat, now voiced by Stephen Mangan, as he goes about his work in Greendale, courtesy of a really good, extended opening shot. All the regulars are there, with the gentle, at first glance quite limited animation adding to their charm. A plot? Well Pat, we learn, wants to take his beloved Sara on a belated honeymoon to Italy with his forthcoming bonus from the Post Office. But before you can say 'undervalued sell-off', the sorting office is under new management, with complex machinery and robotics the way forward, and bonuses not very likely.

So how can Pat win this dream holiday? Er, by entering a television talent content. Pat's talent, we learn, is singing. In fact, what his talent turns out to be is magically switching voices from Stephen Mangan's to Ronan Keating's, with no obvious effort made to disguise the change. Thinking back to The Nightmare Before Christmas, the voicework on the character of Jack Skellington was done by Chris Sarandon, switching to Danny Elfman for the singing. You'd be hard pressed to spot the joins. Here, it's blaringly obvious, almost comedic.

Still, the talent show isn't quite the main narrative thrust of the film, in spite of how the aforementioned trailer made it look. Instead, there's a bigger role for Peter Woodward's Carbunkle as he extends his plans for automation than there is for Ronan Keating's vocal chords. The film does its best to throw these together in an engaging way, with limited success.

But it overeggs many of its points and jokes. The Simon Cowell spoof - Simon Cowbell - goes on and on and on. Meanwhile, fourth-wall breaking asides don't really hit, and initially creep visual sparks - and there's some surprisingly scary stuff for the very young here - run out of impact.

It's worth touching on the animation too. In the era of Pixar, DreamWorks et al, the far less detailed animation employed by Postman Pat: The Movie inevitably sticks out once you look beyond the characters themselves. You get told there's a packed room at one point, and it then appears to be anything but. A big crowd then turns out to be a small gathering. Background details feel like they're missing. Now, that's very much in keeping with the TV show, but the problem that Postman Pat: The Movie faces is that the ticket price to see it is the same as that charged by something like Rio 2. The latter, whilst a weaker film, looks dramatically better than the former, and there's no getting away from that.

Is it a problem? It's certainly noticeable, although it doesn't really get in the way. But the fact you end up distracted by it a little perhaps points to broader issues with the film's ability to hold your attention.

It's a frustrating effort. Some moments in Postman Pat: The Movie work. Mangan's voice fits well, there are a couple of good jokes, and it's breezy enough. For the very young, 90% of it hits the mark too, save for the scarier moments, although we suspect the majority of five year olds will cope with those perfectly well. But the crucial problem is that, after a good opening third or so, the film loses its way, and never really finds it again.

It's best to file this one as a valiant effort that doesn't quite work, in truth. And the fault for that? It's in a screenplay that feels like it really could have used a good deal more work. As it stands, the ingredients are certainly here for a good Postman Pat film, and Mangan's tones effortlessly breathe warmth into the character. But the final film just isn't satisfying enough.

Postman Pat: The Movie comes out in the UK on 23 May.

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Disqus - noscript

Erm, why have you reviewed this pre-school movie on a geek website? I don't get it.

Might have some retro appeal for some what with it being an 80's kids show. Just a thought!

Possibly because it was part of our childhood for a large portion of the readership here, many of whom have kids of their own now that they'd like to share it with, and because nostalgia is as much a part of geekery as anything else?

Because people like me, a Geek Parent, who regularly takes his four-year old daughter to the cinema for what we've named 'Daddy Daughter Cinema Club' read the site - I've always read the reviews for family films on here, like Frozen, Muppets Most Wanted etc. Thankfully my Daughter saw the trailer for this when we saw Muppets Most Wanted and said "Hmm, that looks a bit rubbish, Dad..."

Because Geeks can have kids too...

It's got robots in. Geeks dig robots.

I think I'll wait four years for the gritty reboot.

The Amazing Postman-Pat.

You mustn't forget the hyphen.

I was thinking they might just call it "Pat". And the poster would be stark and minimalist, with just his outline (and that of a feral Jess) against a dark background of blasted trees and crumbling buildings.

And the trailer's ominous and gloomily lit, slowly following Pat's silhouette as he stumbles back into a war-ravaged Greendale. Mrs Goggins' bloody body laid bare in the middle of the street, Ted Glen's corpse clasping her red-stained hands..

Moody close-ups of him going into what could be a dark, cobweb-strewn garage and pulling a tarpaulin off... something. A vehicle door opens and closes (the same sound effect from the series, for the fans). Then the sound of a rusty engine growling into life. Headlights blare, bright, TOO bright, filling the screen. Inception-style BWARRRM. A vehicle explodes through the garage door - you can just about make out that it's his van, except it's black rather than red, but you never get a clear look at it (although DoG will run a breakdown of freeze frames from the trailer, one of which gives you a fairly good idea of what the van looks like).

Cue fast-cut action shots, a dramatic voiceover, and another BWARRRM for luck. Then finish with a creepy, tinkling music box version of the original theme tune as we fade out.

The van stops abruptly, parking in a puddle of.. something. Pat exits and looks around, sniffing the air; he's alert.
From the dark, someone stumbles out. Pat jumps back, fists clenched. It's Miss Hubbard, her jaunty black hat is gone and her hair is tangled with crusted mud and leaves.

Pat doesn't relax. Miss Hubbard takes a step closer. Another step. Another step. Her mouth opens wide.. foam spills out. She's rabid.

Pat gets in the van, Miss Hubbard snarling and frothing at the window. He reverses and then does a quite admirable three-point turn before smacking into Miss Hubbard and catapulting her into the air where she lies in a crumpled heap.

Pat whistles like he used to but with the whistle edited by Danny Elfman.

Post-credits stinger: Order has (mostly) been restored in Greendale. Pat is moving into a new house after his old one blew up spectacularly in a key action scene, along with Sarah and Julian, who survived (or maybe died and he brought them back to life by doing a deal with the devil that will come back to bite him on the ass - we can work these details out later). Then a shadow falls. Pat turns. Something unspeakable has appeared at the end of the path. A new villain! Although we can't see who it is. Pat looks panicked. "I think I'm going to need backup."

A Welsh voice says: "Well, it's your lucky day." Camera pulls back, and we see somebody emerge from the neighbouring house, ready for action.

"... 'Cos there's a hero next door," grins Fireman Sam.


The Pat Knight.
Postman Pat: Salvation or Postman Pat: Redemption or Postman Pat Reborn.
A Good Day For Pat to Post Hard.

I doubt a 5 year old will be thinking 'Well this isn't a patch on Rio 2's background textures...'

My question is why? Why on earth would anyone sit down and decide to make a postman pat movie, I used to love it as a kid but could not be less interested in going to see this ´for old times sake´ I have younger siblings who are into whats new on and higher quality and tend to involve machine guns, murder and betrayal

I am totally disappointed that they didn't make a neo-noir out of this, with Pat being haunted about delivering a mail bomb that left him without a wife and child, and given up on delivering post. That is, until he receives a letter asking him to make one last delivery.

I've thought about this a bit too much

I'm waiting for the one where Pat comes back in time to warn his younger self that in the future he will be hunted by giant robots.....

"Days of Future Pat"

I can't upvote this enough.

The Amazing Postman-Pat 2.

Brief synopsis:

Postman-Pat is living a happy life, chipper, cockier and having a ball as the local postie. But when the evil elements-bending Fireman Sam strikes terror into the heart of Greendale, Pat is forced to confront a figure from his past as Jeff Pringle returns after being shipped away to boarding school in the Big City. With Pringle - in his villainous alter ego - and Sam attacking Greendale, Sara's life is at stake in a battle to end all battles..

How about an erotic thriller instead? With Mrs Hubbard and Postman Pat getting all clinchy? Postman Pat Always Rings Twice...

50 Shades of Pat

Good one. I'd have gone with 50 shades of black & white cat

Patman and Ted Glenn forge an alliance, with Alf Thompson as the chauffeur/ gadgetry master/ butler and Granny Dryden as the wise philosophical old aunt role


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