Bell bottoms, Owen Wilson’s fro and nods to Bob Ross aren’t enough to make this movie charming.
“Paint” on the surface appears to be a Bob Ross biopic. Bob Ross (in case the reader has been living under a rock for the last 40 years) was a popular painter who had calming tutorials for painting on PBS. Known for his gentle demeanor and beautiful art, he was– and arguably still is– extremely popular. “Paint” follows Carl Nargle, played by Owen Wilson, who is a popular painter and has his own PBS show. Seems familiar, right? They even chose to mimic Bob Ross’ name by having an internal rhyme with the vowels. Apparently, Bob Ross’ name is not available for legal use, so some theorized the filmmakers decided to change the name. After all, Carl Nargle even has a permed fro just like Bob Ross.
However, after a few moments of watching the film, it becomes very clear that this is not a serious endeavor. It is likely not an attempt at any sort of biopic– serious or not– but rather a twist on a Bob Ross archetype. It shows Carl Nargle falling from fame and being replaced by a new painter, Ambrosia. Silly interactions and ridiculous scenarios ensue. It seems to be a spoof movie, in the sense that it has a lot of strange jokes and doesn’t seem to be searching for genuine emotion. Owen Wilson is known for comedy and this is utilized in the film. Unfortunately, a lot of the jokes feel awkward.
There is a recurring bit that Carl Nargle has slept with all of the women who work at the PBS station, which gets strange and rather gross pretty quickly. These jokes in particular destroy a lot of potential charm the movie had. Throughout the film, Carl regrets losing out on love with Katherine (Michaela Watkins). The love story is awkward at best due to the humor utilized throughout; if it had committed harder to the bits then perhaps it would have been less cringy, but as it stands now, some jokes undercut emotions and feel unwelcome.
A few jokes do land, such as Carl stealing newspapers to avoid the public seeing his dwindling fame, but sadly these are few and far between. The most frustrating aspect is that this could have been a hit. It had all the pieces for it, but the picture ends up dull. Wilson is a talented comedic actor and there were moments where I was reminded of this in the film, but then annoyed that it wasn’t properly utilized. The film’s tagline is “Go to a special place,” but it’s just an okay place in reality.
The film itself felt oddly cheap. There was an abundance of obvious drone shots and weirdly composited establishing shots of buildings that looked like they were from a network TV show 10 years ago. The score was also incorporated strangely, with the music seeming to swell at inconsequential moments. When it doesn’t look terribly cheap, the aesthetic is actually pleasant; with warm autumn tones and Nargle’s ‘70s aesthetic.
It seems to be a spectrum of enjoyment; a man in the theater scoffed and guffawed joyously at every joke, while my fiance left the movie frustrated with how bad he thought it was. I landed in the middle; it wasn’t terrible, but it was boring and I didn’t feel invested. The spoof aspect wasn’t dialed up enough for it to be effective and the genuine moments didn’t land, so the film ends up somewhere in between. Some people could easily watch this movie and not realize it wasn’t meant to be totally serious. It’s a shame it wasn’t executed better.
2.5 / 5 happy trees