'Paint' review: Owen Wilson channels Bob Ross in disappointing comedy
Courtesy of IFC Films
Finding his inner Bob Ross, Owen Wilson indulges in a dry, comedic presence we haven’t seen from the actor of late, and his new movie “Paint,” an homage as it is a satire to the Ross legacy and shows like “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” gives him a decent canvas that’s molded in broad strokes. Writer-director Brit McAdams lucked out casting Wilson, who is superb playing down-on-his-luck PBS Vermont superstar Carl Nargle, a sexist public access show host who seems to get away with painting the same portrait every afternoon for his elderly fanbase, but a late tonal shift registers “Paint” a semi disappointment.
Far removed from his “Wedding Crashers” days, Wilson is probably the only reason anyone would want to see “Paint,” and to his credit, it’s a comedic showcase with plenty of weighty characteristics any actor would relish (he drives a shag mobile around town like he’s the Governor and converses with nearby bystanders via a megaphone attached to the top of his ride). His celebrity doesn’t extend beyond state lines, and the way in which he conducts himself, you’d assume he’s a zillionaire. His yearly take? A paltry $46,000. I think Wayne and Garth made more.
But Carl has been good for ratings and therefore, he can practically get away with murder (his station boss, played by a bumbling Stephen Root, doesn’t have a spine or backbone), but that crucial dynamic changes with the arrival of fresh blood, a young-hot shot painter named Ambrosia (Ciara Renee) whose inclusive sensibilities stand in stark contrast to Carl’s (plus she doesn’t smoke Tobacco on the air or dehumanize female colleagues) and her rising popularity allots more airtime. The feud between Ambrosia and Carl, who feels the meaning of his decrepit lifestyle slipping away from him, provides much of the dramatic tension for “Paint,” and, for a while at least, their banter and personalities provide a welcome clash of egos. A scene in which the two dueling hosts try raising money for their struggling employer is a highlight.
McAdams could have leaned heavily into this clever tête-à-tête, yet the film oddly spends the entire second half on an uneven romantic subplot involving Carl and his ex-lover Katherine (Michaela Watkins), who is also the station vice president, and any comedic momentum fizzles. Hard to root for someone of Carl’s stature when the entire movie has perpetuated him to be this egotistical snob with no appreciation of his surroundings and livelihood, not to mention the growth suggested of his character by the closing credits doesn’t seem plausible though Wilson musters a lot of charm to sell the material. It doesn’t completely derail the movie’s quirky Wes Anderson-inspired vibe, however, its lazy, underdeveloped pivot takes it from being a good movie to a mediocre one.
PAINT opens in theaters Friday, April 7th.