Fly Away Home Movie Review
In case you missed the movie's trailer, which provides a nice plot synopsis, Fly Away Home is about a teenage girl (Paquin) from New Zealand who moves in with her Canadian father (Jeff Daniels) after her mother dies. The young girl is utterly bored and lonely until she finds a family of young goose eggs (eventually geese) to take care of. After she becomes the geese's mother, she finds happiness, and the whole family bands together to figure out how to take care of the geese. This ultimately leads to the decision to have young Anna fly the geese down south for the winter.
The first problem with this film comes in trying to understand why Anna's mother packed her up and moved to New Zealand of all places. The answer is of course that the studio execs wanted Anna in this picture, and everyone knows Anna Paquin is from New Zealand. Hence, the rewrite.
The second problem comes with trying to understand how important the death of Anna's mother actually is. Presumably since the filmmakers show us the whole car crash in the first scene, the mother's death is important, but after this scene she is not really discussed again for the next hour. Because of this, Anna's moping and whining for the first half of the film seems to have little motivation and Anna's character comes off as basically obnoxious. This is just about the kiss of death for a family movie, when the child star begins to become unlikable.
The rest of the characters, however, fit very well into the stereotypes they are trying to fill (and because they do, they help Anna's character fit into hers): Jeff Daniels plays the caring father trying to get through to his depressed child, Dana Delany is the terribly nice father's girlfriend who has an even harder time trying to make friends with Anna, and supporting characters fill out the various other good guy and bad guy roles. The character arches also fit nicely into the stereotypical family movie fare. Those being that as the story goes on, the bad guys get worse, forcing Anna to turn to the good guys for help, where she finds it. Of course, the story's development is not quite this simple, but it might as well be.
As I mentioned at the outset, Fly Away Home is a family movie. This being the case, the filmmakers have thrown in plenty of cute things (baby geese) and silly things (Anna making funny faces) to keep the kids occupied. What hurts it though is that they have also tried to build rounded characters and a complex plot. In trying so hard to do both however, they have accomplished neither. The film jumps continuously from cute scene to mature scene resulting in 1) an emotional film that never quite lives up to its potential and 2) a lot of distracted children. Fly Away Home is an on-and-off movie founded on the philosophy that it is better to please all of the people some of the time, which doesn't really work with children.