Film Journal: Postman Pat

"You'd think a postman would be better at sorting things," our hero says, and that could also be applied to the filmmakers, who botch what could have been a childish delight.

Postman Pat (Stephen Mangan), the friendliest mail deliverer ever, brings nothing but smiling cheer as he goes about his rounds in the village of Greendale, accompanied by his resourceful cat, Jess. His loving wife dreams of an Italian holiday, so Pat tries to raise the funds by entering the TV reality talent show “You're the One,” presided over by snarky Simon Cowbell (Robin Atkin Downes). However, his soulless enemy of a boss, Carbuncle (Peter Woodward), conspires against him with a dastardly plot involving evil robot versions of Pat and Jess, who take the real ones' place, confusing his wife and friends, while a “Doctor Who”-like army of other Pat-like robots presides over his mail rounds.

A longtime British preschool children's TV favorite transitions to the screen in this tragically un-magical computer-animated feature, which divests the original concept of its quaint stop-motion appeal, among other charms. The script is a chaotic morass of mixed intentions, often forsaking what would really appeal to a young child in favor of cynical attempts to keep their parents awake. Mike Disa directs with a heavy hand from the opening sequence that has Pat and Jess performing utterly unbelievable high-flying stunts in the course of their mail work. The whole reality talent show gambit should be retired already (How many Simon Cowell parodies can there be?), and all those Pat-bots who turn into a menacing army, not to mention that mechanical cat with the laser-shooting eyes, will instill terror more than delight in very young audiences, provided they're not bored to death.

Disconcertingly, Mangan's voice as Pat is replaced when singing by that of Ronan Keating—an entirely unconvincing fit—and the song he sings, the favorite of wifey, is a bathetic power anthem. When he unsurprisingly hits the big time, a lavish production number with scores of chorus girls has somewhat more, if mechanical, hip-hop-flavored, auto-tuned appeal. Pat does let success go to his head, as his wife furrows her plasticine-looking brow, but is made to come to his senses and bleats out lines like "If people aren't there to share your success, then maybe you're not that successful," as his TV audience wipes away tears. (Didn't we hear something like that in Diana Ross' Mahogany, and did we need to hear it again?)

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