The images you may see in the trailer for "Paint," may make you think that Owen Wilson is portraying the legendary, soft-spoken Public Television artist, Bob Ross, whose "The Joy of Painting" captivated people around the world.
But "Paint" is not a biopic, nor does Bob Ross have anything to do with this film. Sure, the look of Wilson's character, the easy-going womanizer, Carl Nargle, may himself have a popular public-access TV show about painting, and he may have taken inspiration from Ross's iconic appearance, but Nargle couldn't be more polar opposite than Ross.
The biggest difference? Ross is a joy to watch. Nargle on the other hand, is a grating, pompous-ass who gets by with his charm and talents. None of which leaves anything for us to root for in this bland, quirky "comedy," that seems to misfire at every opportunity.
A cast filled with talented actors like Stephen Root, Michaela Watkins, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Lucy Freyer and Ciara Renée aren't enough to help "Paint" find its stroke.
Nargle is a popular, soft-spoken painter who has become a massive local celebrity with his Vermont Public TV program. His talents make all the girls swoon, especially those on his crew and at the station who literally nearly faint at his every move. The slimy station manager (played by Stephen Root) has brought on a new talented artist but assures Nargle that he has nothing to worry about. Wait...two painting shows on one public station? Nargle soon figures out that he's yesterday's news, and that is info that is way too much for his fragile, now-broken ego.
Everything in "Paint" is exaggerated and we quickly understand that this is working on the level of satire...of what exactly, it's hard to be sure. There's a laugh to be had when you look at Owen Wilson, wearing throwback 70s clothing and sporting a massive afro wig, and to see that this full package is the dream of every woman in town. But it's a one-note joke that stretches out for way too long.
The oddities and quirkiness of the characters sadly don't result in enough laughs, and everything seems out of place. By the time the third act rolls around, we're asked to give a damn about Nargle, but he has fallen victim to the artificiality of the synthetic world we've been presented with thus far, and it just doesn't land. Buried somewhere in the wreckage are themes dealing with imposter-syndrome, loneliness, artistic expression and self-confidence, but all is lost as the many colors are splattered carelessly together.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but "Paint" squanders its chance to fill its canvas with anything of substance. A shame, given some of its colorful characters.
Genre: Comedy, Drama.
Run Time: 1 hour 36 minutes.
Starring: Owen Wilson, Stephen Root, Ciara Renée, Michaela Watkins, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Lucy Freyer.
Written and Directed by Brit McAdams (feature-film directorial debut).
"Paint" is in theaters on Friday, April 7th, 2023.
(SEE TOM'S INTERVIEWS WITH MICHAELA WATKINS AND WENDI MCLENDON-COVEY BELOW).
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