Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Movie Review #291: "Paper Towns" (2015)

Movie"Paper Towns"
Ticket Price: $9.75
Director: Jake Schreier
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
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Ever since he was a kid, Quentin (Nat Wolff) has been in love with his neighbor Margo (Cara Delevingne). They were childhood friends, but as they got older, they grew apart. One night, out of the blue, Margo shows up at Q's window, asking him to go on a quest for revenge against her unfaithful boyfriend and her other friends who have lied to her. He agrees and has the night of his life with Margo. The next day, she vanishes without a word to anybody. Now, Quentin and his friends look for clues left behind by Margo to solve the mystery of her disappearance. 

"Paper Towns" is a coming-of-age story about a teenager who goes on a journey of self-discovery while looking for a girl who went on a journey of self-discovery. Played by Nat Wolff, Quentin, or Q as he is known to his friends, is your average, unpopular high school student who is good in academics and a member of the school band. He is very reserved, has his life pretty much planned out, doesn't take many risks, and likes to remain within his comfort zone. Margo, played by Cara Delevingne, is the exact opposite. She is popular and outgoing, takes tons of risks, and is constantly looking for adventure in her boring, cookie-cutter town and life. Despite this, Q is in love with Margo, and has been since they were childhood friends. Ahhh, to be 17 years old again.

We wish we could say tons of great things about these two young actors, but we're finding it hard to do so. Though not completely terrible, Wolff certainly has a penchant for mumbling, and Delevingne lacks any emotional range whatsoever, giving her an monotonous feel in her delivery. Right off the bat and knowing this much, this is already a step down from the previous John Green adaptation, "The Fault in Our Stars," which had some very good young actors in Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as the film's leads. Obviously, the two stories are similar, but they are also very different, too. Unlike TFIOS, which included a lot of maturity and unrealistic expectations of teenagers, "Paper Towns" is sort of a mix of both early maturity on the part of some of the character, and a lack of it in others. The times of intense poignancy are offset by periods of "I would totally do your mom" jokes. Even so, the subject matter here has far less emotional impact than "The Fault in Our Stars," and we found it hard to get invested in a story that seems to be like a thousand other movies and tales already in existence. And I say this having read both books. This film boils down to a girl who is fed up with what a drag her upper middle-class suburban life has been and the subsequent mystery she leaves behind for the guy who is infatuated with her. Though Margo is talked about constantly throughout the film, she only has about 10-15% of screen time since the majority is spent trying to locate her whereabouts. Playing much bigger roles are Q's friends, Ben, played by Austin Abrams, and Radar, played by Justice Smith. Ben is that one friend we all know and love, but is just a little annoying and talks a big game about their sexual conquests, yet is clearly completely awkward around the opposite sex, and Radar is a little more down to earth and has a girlfriend, but his has some nutty parents. Another major part of the movie is filled by Margo's best friend Lacey, played by Halston Sage, who joins Q and his friends on their quest to find Margo. Lacey has been wrongfully accused of knowing about a situation by Margo, but still desperately wants to find her friend. Lacey, like Margo, is very popular and beautiful, and normally wouldn't hang out with the likes of Q and his friends, but she too is at a place where she is tired of being stereotyped as just a pretty face. She has a much meatier part in the book, and I would have liked to see her final scene with Margo make it to the big screen.

Speaking of which, there were a couple of parts from the trailer left on the cutting room floor for inexplicable reasons, which was odd to us since it makes a bunch of continuity errors in the story. Though there are some decent moments in the film, it tries to be really poignant and have some deeper emotional meaning that just isn't there. In the end, it never fully grabs or engage us, and though short enough, by the time it's over, it feels like just another run-of-the-mill teen drama. Though John Green's future is secure enough from all of these successful book-to-film adaptations, we much prefer the slightly different "The Fault in Our Stars" rather than "Paper Towns," and we hope his third book adaptation is more like the former than the latter.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 56%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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