PAPER PLANES (U, 97 mins) Drama/Romance. Ed Oxenbould, Sam Worthington, Ena Imai, Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke, Julian Dennison, David Wenham, Deborah Mailman, Terry Norris, Peter Rowsthorn. Director: Robert Connolly.

Released: tomorrow (UK & Ireland)

CHEESIER than a lump of mature cheddar, Paper Planes is a life-affirming drama about a grief-stricken boy, who heals his family's wounds with his gift for fashioning airborne missiles out of A4.

Director Robert Connolly and co-writer Steve Worland have evidently been watching Billy Elliot on repeat, which would explain why their pint-sized hero describes folding paper as an escape from reality in similar terms to the miner's son, who dreamt of becoming a ballet dancer.

"I love it because for those few moments the plane is flying, I can forget," coos the plucky protagonist.

Nothing is understated in Connolly and Worland's old-fashioned screenplay: every emotion is loudly verbalised, bullies learn valuable lessons about humility and self-absorbed parents are brought to their senses by their precocious off-spring.

The Australian cast, including lead actor Ed Oxenbould, last seen in M Night Shyamalan's The Visit, hammer home the key tenets of this family-oriented adventure with gusto.

Twelve-year-old Dylan (Oxenbould) is a student at Waleup Primary School in the Western Australian outback.

He lives with his father Jack (Sam Worthington), who has given up on life - and Dylan - following the death of his wife so the boy seeks comfort from his cantankerous grandfather (Terry Norris).

During a lesson at school, Dylan shows a natural flair for making paper airplanes and teacher Mr Hickenlooper (Peter Rowsthorn) encourages him to take part in national trials for the World Paper Plane Championships.

School bully Kevin (Julian Dennison) becomes an unlikely ally in this endeavour and is delighted when Dylan refers to him as a mate.

"I've never had one of those before!" grins Kevin proudly.

Dylan wins a place in the Australian team alongside spoilt brat Jason (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke), whose father Patrick (David Wenham) is a retired golf pro.

Before he departs for the finals in Japan, Dylan doles out harsh words to his old man: "I'm 12 and I get it. She's dead and she's not coming back. We're never going to see her again."

Far from home, the youngster befriends Japanese competitor Kimi (Ena Imai), who is a pint-sized sensei when it comes to the art of paper-folding.

"Winning and losing doesn't matter," she advises. "It's about making something beautiful and surprising."

Paper Planes should have the target pre-teen audience cheering in the aisles as Dylan overcomes adversity.

Oxenbould is an appealing hero and he gels pleasantly with Worthington, who mopes around for most of the film and only really comes to life in the unabashedly feel-good finale.

Some of the digital effects, employed to help the paper planes achieve lift off, are a tad clumsy, but that's in keeping with the heavy-handedness of the rest of the film.

RATING: 5/10