A beloved children’s television character gets a perfunctory big-screen treatment in director Mike Disa’s feature film adaptation of the hugely popular animated series that has been running on-and-off in England since 1981. Despite its voice cast comprised of a gallery of notable British performers including Stephen Mangan, Jim Broadbent, Rupert Grint and David Tennant, Postman Pat: The Movie is a mostly charmless and dark affair that is unlikely to appeal to American preschool children unfamiliar with the series.
Mangan nicely voices the title character, the ever-reliable mail carrier of the small village of Greendale who goes about his daily chores accompanied by his faithful cat, Jess. The overly convoluted plot is set in motion when Pat, eager to take his wife, Sara (Susan Duerden), on a trip to Italy, is denied his bonus by a newly hired, ruthless efficiency expert, Edwin Carbunkle (Peter Woodward), at the Special Delivery Service. Indeed, Carbuncle has plans to replace Pat with a robot, the Patbot 3000, who sorely lacks the personal touch and kindly nature that has endeared his human predecessor to his fellow villagers.
Pat’s only hope is to participate in a singing competition reality TV show hosted by the sarcastic “Simon Cowbell” (Robin Atkin Downes) — it’s not hard to figure out the inspiration — the top prize for which is an all-expenses-paid Italian holiday. Displaying a heretofore unrevealed singing talent, Pat (his singing voice provided by pop star Ronan Keating) proves a sensation. Letting his success go to his head, he promptly sheds his trademark glasses and proceeds to ignore his wife and young son Julian (Sandra Teles) even as the Patbot and his robot cat secretly take over his route with predictably calamitous results. Threatening to expose the conspiracy is the Scottish manager (Tennant) of his primary competitor (Grint) on the show.
The film begins promisingly enough, with a charming extended sequence beautifully depicting the scenic environs of Greendale and its good-natured inhabitants. And it has its fun moments, most notably an amusing sequence in which a series of menacing robot mail carriers are tested on a fearful old lady. Nicole Dubuc’s screenplay features several nods to adults with its jokes: Pat is seen reading The Postman Always Rings Twice, and a robot sings “Daisy,” a la 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Hal 9000, when he starts to malfunction.
But younger tykes are bound to be baffled by the satirical content and the story’s increasingly dark tone, with the robot versions of Pat and his cat proving far more scary than comical.
Eschewing the series’ stop-motion animation, the film features rote CGI animation that proves visually unappealing. Some compensation is provided in the form of several musical sequences, including a comic montage set to Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” and Pat’s exuberant rendition of, what else, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”
Production company: RGH Pictures
Cast: Stephen Mangan, Jim Broadbent, Rupert Grint, David Tennant, Susan Duerden, Sandra Teles, Peter Woodward, Robin Atkin Downes
Director: Mike Disa
Screenwriter: Nicole Dubuc
Producer: Robert Anich
Executive producers: Randa Ayoubi, David J. Corbett, Eric Ellenbogen, Doug Schwalbe, Ralph Kamp, Sarah Arnott
Art director: Richard Smitheman
Editor: Robert David Sanders
Composer: Rupert Gregson-Williams
No rating, 85 minutes