It’s surprising how many films get made where the moral of the movie is completely contradicted by the film itself, but nobody involved in making it seems to have realised that. And that’s the problem with Postman Pat: The Movie, a film where the central character has to remember to appreciate the small things in life that the original 80s TV show handled so well – where the most pressing issue was a lost sheep – but then sets it within a movie that’s noisy and bombastic, and has little to do with the gentleness of the series it’s based on.
At the start of the film Pat (here voiced by Steven Mangan) is happily delivering mail and living his small, village life. In order to win the chance to take his wife to Italy, he auditions for an X-Factor style contest – fronted by Simon Cowbell – and to his own surprise becomes a massive hit (thanks to the fact he’s got Ronan Keating’s singing voice). Soon he’s swept up in the celebrity lifestyle, a long way from his home and family.
To make things a little more complicated, delivery firm executive Carbunkle decides to use Pat’s fame to launch his scheme to replace postmen with robots. To do this he creates a bot that looks like Pat, to the point where even those who’ve known him for years don’t seem to realise he’s been replaced by a piece of machinery.
It’s difficult not to feel with Postman Pat: The Movie that bigger is not always better. By bringing in more action and an Aardman-lite edge of absurdism, it loses much of its Postman Pat-ness and doesn’t replace it with anything else that’s all that worthwhile.
Indeed much of its problem seems to be uncertainty over what and who it’s for. A lot of the plot will go over the head of the pre-schoolers the show was originally aimed at (and to be honest the Pat robots will freak quite a few of them out). It seems to be hoping the pop culture references and edge of zaniness will attract slightly older kids, but it doesn’t work, and even adults hoping for a bit of retro charm won’t get a Postman Pat that feels like what they remember.
It also doesn’t help that underneath all the morals and learning what’s important about life, it never seem to realise that everything is set in motion by Pat lying to his wife. Perhaps that should have been the moral, as there wouldn’t have been a problem if he’d just told the truth.
If you’re a child of the 80s, you may be wondering where the wife – and son – came from. In 1981 Pat was single and just had cat Jess for company. The family arrived in the 1996 reboot, as presumably it was in those 15 years that single grown men being nice to children went from being paternal and non-threatening to being on high paedophile alert.
Postman Pat: The Movie isn’t all bad. Some of it is quite funny and there are whole sequences where it finds wit, heart and energy. However every time I thought I’d judged the movie too early, it snaps back to a state of being confused and slightly all over the place.
And just by the way, why does Pat still drive a Royal Mail van when he doesn’t actually work for the Royal Mail?
Overall Verdict: If the film had just trusted the core of Postman Pat that has kept it popular for 30 years – rather than just paying lip service to it at the beginning and the end – it might have worked better than trying to shove in pop culture references and an anarchic edge that doesn’t really fit.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac