Based on another of John Green’s books, “Paper Towns” is the latest teen drama exploring attraction, modern romance, and naïveté lost. Not as charming or emotional as films like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” or “The Fault in Our Stars,” another Green tale, “Paper Towns” offers a misguided pursuit of a one-dimensional, dream girl. Though the mystery of the girl directs the moral of the film, the quest lacks the envisioned knight’s sincerity.
Entranced by his neighbor since their childhood and a tragic link, Quentin (Nat Wolff) has spent his youth smitten with Margo (Cara Delevingne), a girl he has never understood. When Margo includes Q on a night of revenge on dishonest classmates, Q imagines his life will change and now include Margo. However, Margo disappears, which leads Q to leave his comfort zone. With the help of his two best friends, Radar (Justice Smith) and Ben (Austin Abrams), Q searches for clues to Margo’s whereabouts.
In the novel, Margo’s safety is at the height of the story, making Q’s purpose more understandable. He wants to be her knight in shining armor. Margo’s disappearance is not just a puzzle for him to solve but a race to save her from never leaving the “paper towns.” In the film, the escalation of events revolves around attending prom on time, a weak motivation for characters who rarely vocalize an interest. The adaptation stays mostly true to the book but messes up a key point to Q’s motivation, betraying his fundamental character and neglecting his inner reflections (especially as he dwells on his vision of Margo).
Typically, when audiences think of road trips in film, they think of excitement and shenanigans, but “Paper Towns” disappoints. Maybe the trip is a more realistic adventure, but the pacing and lack of interesting mischief just makes the whole film tiring. The characters are just shells of John Green’s creations (though, thankfully half of Ben’s teenage sexism is cut), so they cannot fully carry the weight of the story.
The moral of “Paper Towns” comes close to fresh and thoughtful, however the movie has too much awkwardness in presentation that it seems to suggest another, disconnected lesson; Green’s story emphasizes the extremes one will go for a dream but the dangers of not seeing a person for who they actually are, of love at first sight creating an object of affection as an idea rather than a reality, but the film’s conclusion seems to emphasize the clichéd “live in the moment,” glory days of high school. Director Jake Schreier directed the wonderful “Robot & Frank,” but his “Paper Towns” falls flat and will be a forgettable stop on the journey through 2015’s movies.
Rating for “Paper Towns:” C
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“Paper Towns” is playing at major theatres in Columbus, including Gateway and AMC Easton. For showtimes, click here.