Starring: Stephen Mangan, David Tennant, Jim Broadbent
Genre: Animation/ Family/ Comedy
‘Postman’ Pat Clifton (Mangan) has been delivering the mail in the village of Greendale for many years, and his every friendly and helpful manner has made him very popular with all the locals. Using the bonus he hopes to get, Pat promises his wife Sara (Susan Duerden) that he will take her to Italy. However, he learns that he will not be getting his bonus, as Pat’s new manager, Edwin Carbunkle (Peter Woodward) has scrapped bonuses as well as a friendly service (as friendliness is apparently inefficient) in an attempt to make the company more efficient and profitable. To keep his promise, Pat goes on a national talent show called You’re the 1, (presented by Simon Cowbell – ho-hum) with one of the winning prizes being a trip for two to Italy, with Pat’s singing voice being a revelation. While Pat is away, Edwin has him replaced by a more efficient robot, or ‘Patbot 3000’, which is not only far more efficient but less friendly, it is also part of a much more fiendish plot of Edwin.
There have been many popular children’s TV shows getting the feature length film treatment (and usually not for the better), and yet still none have reached the standard of 1970’s Dougal and the Blue Cat (if you haven’t seen it, then just do!). Well now it is the turn for Greendale’s pointy nosed postman and unfortunately, once again it seems that when transferring the character to the big screen and giving them a feature length running time all of what made the character so popular has been forgotten in a half baked attempt to give the film broader appeal.
The film itself starts off very well; with a sweeping shot through the CGI countryside as it shows all the famous residents of Greendale going about the daily business with an accompanying dramatic arrangement of the Postman Pat theme tune. The animation is admittedly lacking the detail of a Disney Pixar or Dreamworks production, but this being a low budget production that is not necessarily a problem. After all, animation, whether it be CGI or otherwise, can be charming and engaging without being expensive. The animation is very colourful, and the lacking detail becomes less obvious as the film goes on as your eyes adjust to it and get used to it.
Sadly, it is for other reasons other than the standard of animation that Postman Pat: The Movie misses the mark. It seems the writers have written a story that tries to appeal to many new demographics, but fails to appeal to any of them while also alienating its original core demographic. Postman Pat has a very young fan base, but (and many parents have already said this) the so-called ‘Patbots’ are actually a little too scary for that age group.
Speaking as someone who enjoyed the original series as a young child, what makes Postman Pat popular is the light hearted nature of the gentle storytelling and the memorable residents of Greendale. The other residents barely get a look in here, with the sole focus of the story being Pat, his family and then new characters. I am aware that with recent series the world has been expanded with Pat now delivering in a bigger town and for a different, bigger delivery company (however being a 30 year old man with no children I surprisingly haven’t seen them), but I think the fact is that this is a character that just doesn’t work in a 90 minute feature length film and all the narrative rules that comes with that.
OK, so maybe it is unfair to judge Postman Pat: The Movie in comparison to the TV series and it should be judged in its own right. Even then though, it just doesn’t work. It is not horrifically bad, and is watchable, but yet the attempts at satirical humour (Profit obsessed CEOs, reality TV judges, occasional in-jokes), emotion (learning the value of friendship, family and who you truly are) and action (scary Pat-bots and a Jess-bot) just are not written well enough to work. The humour isn’t intelligent enough to please older viewers (parents) with laughs at more than with, the emotion seems way too cynically written and patronising to the younger audience, and as I said before, the action is way too scary for really young viewers.
The only good thing is the actors, who do predictably solid vocal work (even if they are pretty much playing themselves), but that is not quite enough to elevate the lacklustre material. Stephen Mangan’s casting as the voice of Pat makes sense, and he does a solid job, but the fact that the singing is done by Ronan Keating is really off putting. Of course, as with so many genres of film these days, it may be possible the plot came first and they then attached the characters and names to enhance the marketing appeal (Oh! How cynical of me!), even if that is case, Postman Pat: The Movie simply isn’t quite good enough.
Though it is just about watchable, Postman Pat: The Movie is on the whole yet another failed attempt to get a children’s beloved small screen character to star in their own big screen feature length adventure. The jokes are flat, the emotion cynical and action too scary for very young viewers, making the whole thing a badly judged mess of a film that just doesn’t quite deliver (and somehow I managed to resist putting that pun in up until now!)