Paper Towns full movie review - "Paper Towns" is well-intentioned but disappointing.
When reviewing a movie based on a book, should the reviewer make the movie's story part of the commentary, even if the movie's plot matches the book's plot closely?
I say yes. And I'll go even further. I don't think it's necessary for the reviewer to read the book before reviewing the movie. Here's why: A movie reviewer reviews movies, not books. A movie has to stand on its own, whether the viewer has read the book or not (and, usually, the majority haven't). Now, if I haven't read the book, after I see the movie, I'll do some background research on the differences between the two so I can include that information in my review, but I'm still only going to judge aspects of the movie as they contribute to the whole. Take the movie "Paper Towns" (PG-13, 1:49) for example. Although I haven't read the book, I have read enough about the book to compare them, but I'm still only judging what appeared on screen.
I say all that to say this: "Live life to the fullest." There. I just saved you almost two hours. That's really all this movie is about. Didn't care for the story. Didn't care for the movie. Still, I do owe you more than that, so, as always, I'll tell you about the actors and the plot (without spoilers), I'll explain the grade I've given the movie, including what I think wasn't good and what was good (because, after all, there's some of both in almost every movie). And whether you think the book was better than the movie or the movie was better than the book is irrelevant. This is a movie review. Ya feel me? Cool. Onward and upward? The movie takes its title from the 2008 book by John Green (author of "The Fault in Our Stars"). In the eyes of one of the story's central characters, paper towns are cities in which people ("paper people") go about their hum-drum lives without really living. The title also carries a literal real-world meaning. The title is a reference to the cartographers' practice of putting fake places onto the maps they make to deter copyright infringement (or catch anyone who does such infringing). These plagiarism traps have several names, including paper towns. One such paper town is Agloe (in New York State's Catskill Mountains), which is where the story's climax takes place. But the story begins in Orlando, Florida.
Quentin "Q" Jacobsen (Nat Wolff) fell in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman (model-singer-actress Cara Delevingne) when her family moved in across the street from his. Both kids were in elementary school, but it was love at first sight for him. It was friendship for her? and then it wasn't even that. Q and Margo drifted apart. As high school seniors, they don't even acknowledge each other anymore. She's beautiful, free-spirited and mysterious (as she has always been) and hangs out with the other popular kids. Q is socially awkward and the opposite of adventurous and hangs out with his two best friends and fellow band students, Ben Starling (Austin Abrams) and Marcus "Radar" Lincoln (Justice Smith).
The action really starts one night when Margo crawls in through Q's bedroom window and asks to borrow his car to pull revenge pranks on her cheating boyfriend and others whom she feels have betrayed her. Q reluctantly agrees to be her getaway driver, and even helps a bit. Over the course of the night, he admits that he had fun and he begins to hope that this experience will rekindle his dormant friendship with Margo and maybe lead to something more. His hopes are soon dashed when Margo goes missing. Her parents believe that she has run away (for the fifth time), and now that she's 18, they aren't even going to look for her. Both Q and Lacey Pemberton (Halston Sage), Margo's best friend, want to know what happened to Margo, but they haven't a clue? yet.
"Margo always loved mysteries," Q tells us in his brief narration at the beginning of the film. "So much that she became one." Margo may be a gone girl, but she left clues, which lead Q, Ben and Radar to search Margo's room, take her bedroom door off its hinges, go to an abandoned building in a shady part of town and, eventually take a long road trip, joined by Radar's girlfriend, Angela (Jaz Sinclair) and Lacey, on whom Ben has a crush (when he's not lusting after Q's mother). Through all this, the film omits some of the episodes in the book (as almost all film adaptations have to do), but keeps all the most important plot points (including the ending), as well as the "moral of the story".
"Paper Towns" has a worthwhile message, but takes as long to get there as driving from Florida to New York. The story's original enough, but it's highly unrealistic. The actors are appealing and the film treats the teens like real people, but they seem abnormally worldly for their ages and their angst sometimes annoyingly plays out as nothing more than (mostly) spoiled rich white kids complaining about their lives. Lastly, after emotionally investing (as much I could) in these characters, as well as almost two hours of my time, I found the ending frustrating. "Paper Towns" is as disappointing as a sightseeing trip to Agloe, New York. "C"