Flix at :48: Paint
Someone asked me recently what I think is the most difficult or challenging film genre to be successful. I said comedy, because comedies are usually stupid with predictable punchlines reaching for the lowest level of originality and stereotypes with zero depth or interest. Comedy has also become an increasingly polarizing word, because what I find funny may not be what you find funny.
You have to have the "right" sense of humor to enjoy a Will Ferrell comedy just as much as a Peter Sellers comedy. So, with that in mind, I anxiously watched Paint, a new comedy released in theaters in early April.
Starring Owen Wilson (The French Dispatch, 2021), Paint is a likeable, subdued, mellow film about a fictional artist Carl Nargle, a locally beloved painter with a public access TV show where he creates joyful landscapes while teaching his viewers to do the same. But when a newer, younger painter arrives in town with a TV show of her own, Carl's popularity and confidence start to fade, forcing him to question what he wants in life.
Owen Wilson's leading role of Carl Nargle is obviously inspired by famous real-life painter Bob Ross with a soft voice, brown afro, and love for "happy trees". Who knows why the main character is inspired by Bob Ross since this film has nothing to do with the real painter's life, his accomplishments, or his family. I guess the Bob Ross hints are a ploy to try making Paint funnier than it actually is.
Even in this fictional world of small-town fame and artistic merit, so little ground is covered in the story that it made me wonder what this film is even about. Plot points happen and then go away, never to be mentioned or reference again (like Carl's relationships with his coterie of doting women).
A slew of terrific character actors, like Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs, 2013-2023) and Stephen Root (Barry, 2018-2023), and some quirky fun to this film. But the film's direction is so aimless, with so many tertiary roles, that nobody gets enough screen time to keep Paint entertaining...except Owen Wilson. In an effort to maintain a calm domestic vibe, Paint has a dry amateurish sense of humor somewhere between Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014) and Christopher Guest (A Mighty Wind, 2003).
Unfortunately, the calmness and lack of story give this film zero narrative energy. When I wasn't feeling bored during Paint, I was confused. Even though the run time is just 1 hour and 36 minutes, I kept feeling like it was longer....as it dragged on and on.
Writer/director Brit McAdams obviously knows comedy from directing multiple episodes of the series Tosh.0 in 2009. (That show ran from 2009-2020.) But with Paint being this man's feature film debut, it ends up being an example of what happens when you don't make enough decisions in a film's focus, its direction, and its identity. Maybe I just have the "wrong" sense of humor for this one.