Paper Towns

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In my review of the last Woody Allen movie, all I did was compare it to a Rolling Stones concert. I was tempted to spend this entire review doing “paper” puns. I could talk about how it’s not worth the paper the script is written on…or how the story is paper thin. Oh, the possibilities are endless. Instead, I’ll waste a bit more of my time and energy trying to tell the story we’ve seen a thousand times – nerdy guy lusting after the school hottie/neighbor.

This hottie is played by teenage model Cara Delevingne. The movie starts when Margo Roth Spiegelman moves next door to Quentin (Nat Wolff of The Fault in Our Stars). As children, they’re fast friends. They ride bikes together, hang out, and occasionally discover dead bodies.

In high school, they drift apart. He becomes a geek in the school band, and she hangs with the plastics. Well, until her boyfriend cheats on her. Then she climbs back into Quentin’s window, wanting him to go on an adventure with her.

At this point, I’m wondering how I can ever like her (despite those incredible eye brows). She’s a sociopathic nut job. And wanting to get revenge on all these various people because they may have known about her boyfriend cheating…seems rather extreme; even for me, and I love getting revenge on people. It also seems rather pathetic for her to enlist the help of Quentin. After all, we witness a scene where they pass each other in the hall, and as he smiles and is about to say hi, she walks away. At least when Lindsay Lohan started hanging around with the cool kids in Mean Girls, she felt conflicted with how they treated others. Margo never really seems to care. She’s loving the good life, until she’s hurt. So for her it’s…off with their heads! (well, eye brows).

Margo is more of a mess than Margot Kidder.

As they go around town getting revenge on these people, it’s all rather mean-spirited. Graffiti on walls and automobiles seems a bit extreme. The removal of the eye brow would be fine, if only we could believe it. Having two kids climb into the bedroom window of the school jock, and then have a conversation about whether or not they should do it, all without waking him…is a bit of a stretch. It was fine in Ted 2 when they discuss what they’re going to do to Tom Brady while he’s sleeping in bed. We’re watching an animated Teddy Bear. It’s a bit different with real people.

The series of pranks concludes with a slightly romantic moment, where they dance in a high-rise, looking at the lights of the city. Margo has some words of wisdom to Q about expanding his horizons and taking risks. That’s about as deep as this movie gets, although I’m guessing most teenagers will think this script is profound. I could name a thousand movies that do the teen thing better, starting with The Graduate (since Nat Wolff sort of resembles a young Dustin Hoffman).

When I mention all the teen movies that did things better, we can add The Breakfast Club, since one of the friends (Austin Abrams) looks like Michael Anthony Hall, and also has a habit of making up the name of girlfriends he’s had sex with. The other friend, Radar (Justice Smith), is a more enjoyable character. He’s not just a one-dimensional nerd. He actually has a girlfriend, and there’s a fun side story involving his parents’ obsession with collectimg “Black Santas.”

The guys ditch school to go on a road trip, and I immediately think of how great this was in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It was funnier, and more important lessons were learned. In this, the guys go in search of Margo, because she disappeared. The parents tell the police she probably ran away, as she’s done that before. I still have no clue why the parents of the five other kids allowed them to go (and on school days).

Q finds clues she left for him. Some of them obscure (a Woody Guthrie record) others, more obvious (an actual address on his bedroom door).

As the guys drive across the state, we’re supposed to laugh when one of them urinates into an empty soda can. Or perhaps we’re supposed to be amused with how quickly they run into a liquor store to buy various snacks.

Even a scene that was mildly amusing has been done before. It has various students speculating what happened to Margo. One thinks she went to Iceland, or Greenland, to save whales. Another said she got a record deal after somebody heard her in a karaoke bar.

When I saw a flashback of her with a popular rock band and talking her way backstage…I thought of the movie I saw two weeks ago – Mistress America (it’ll be released very soon, and is much better).

Even a scene in which Quentin realizes Margo might not be this fascinating and deep a person as he had envisioned, is ruined by how it plays out.

The entire movie feels phony and the contrivances are ridiculous.

Go rent The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Way Way Back, or the soon to be available Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Even the soundtrack is awful (although I did like a joke where they make fun of Ed Sheeran).

This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.









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