Another new year, another surprise from within the indecipherable minds of the film industry. In recent times, it’s become almost an unwritten rule that all kids’ films must be made by either Pixar or Dreamworks and feature quirky original writing and puns so crafty the kids don’t even notice them (e.g. Jacques the cleaner shrimp and half of the Finding Nemo cast). Since time-honoured franchises are ruling grown-up cinema, though, why not try the same thing here? (said some studio executive somewhere, probably). Enter Postman Pat, early childhood staple of millions. Not that he resembles the public servant you know and love, of course. That would be silly.
When I was five, I had the same slippers as Mrs. Goggins, the local shopkeep. This was a badge of honour. Postman Pat was a simple programme about simple life in a simple small town, characterised by community spirit. It taught kids that old ladies are friendly and that policemen and the man who brings the milk should be treated with respect, not with bottles and swearing. Regrettably, this 3D adaptation has taken a more contemporary turn.
First off, chief baddie David Tennant wants to rid the world of Pat and his kind and replace them with robots. There’s some up-to-date relevance right there – we’re in the north of England, after all, where industry, manufacturing, labour and old-fashioned day-to-day life have come under constant threat and all but vanished from view. But the nasal, anthropologically accurate Glaswegian antagonist – a modernist businessmen? Indeed not. His motivation to crush Pat is that the postman upstaged him at a reality show singing contest judged by Simon Cowbell (the same executive is still congratulating himself on that one).
The key problem here is one that the filmmakers probably missed. They were going for something relevant and relatable, key things for good kids’ films, and have actually done a much better job than usual – for once, there isn’t an 80s-style skateboard (standard “kids will love it!” fare for the last 30 years) in sight, nor is there a BMX, an out-of-date guitar-solo soundtrack or even a backwards baseball cap. Pat wears his hat the right way round and Jess the cat doesn’t talk or crack wise. The only error is that, instead of encouraging kids to enjoy village life and the prospect of a simple, honest job – of course I wanted to be a postman, until Fireman Sam proved cooler – the film is telling them that X Factor is awesome. As though TV isn’t bad enough already. These pocket people are meant to read books or go outside every once in a while, and if they’re going to drape themselves across the couch with a life-sized bag of Doritos they should at least be watching something decent, not the lowest common denominator of television designed to take pointless money out of the pockets of the voting public.
Nevertheless, as our staff have put it, “kids will love it”. And they will. For once the executives actually got it right, so let’s leave it at that.