Committing to your premise is essential for a comedy. At the same time, it’s not enough to only commit whole hog to your premise. It needs to be developed and expanded on, until a full narrative emerges. Paint only does the first step, neglecting what’s needed for an effective film. The end result is a movie that barely feels like it’s there at all. If it was a paint color, it would be a muddied shade of grey.
Paint is a gimmick in search of a film. Riffing on Bob Ross is all well and good, but what’s the point here? I’m legitimately asking because I’ve seen the movie and still can’t say. The satire is so weak, the commentary so nonexistent, it’s almost afraid to do anything with its premise. Considering how odd and Adult Swim-like it can be, that’s a real shame. This is a different artistic failure, especially when you look at the potential for something more akin to Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.
Carl Nargle (Owen Wilson) is Vermont’s number one public television painter, beloved as a cult figure. Legendarily romancing and dumping all of his female co-workers, he holds a torch for Katherine (Michaela Watkins). Fawned upon by station manager Tony (Stephen Root) and lusted after by Jenna (Lucy Freyer), the good times seem like they’ll never end. That is, until low ratings and a sense of repetition on Carl’s part leads to the bringing in of a younger voice. Enter Ambrosia (Ciara Renée), who is new and exciting. In short order, Carl’s days are numbered, before he even realizes. When he does, it’s too late.
Usurped by Ambrosia, Carl sees everyone at the station, from Jenna and Katherine to Tony and Wendi (Wendi McLendon-Covey) all shove him aside for her. Eventually, it costs him his job, along with some degree of his sanity. What is Carl to do? Why did he even begin painting in the first place? Are there interesting answers to these questions. You can probably guess, unfortunately.
Owen Wilson is a saving grace here, even if he can’t hold everything up on his own. Wilson probably could have actually played Bob Ross, though that’s not the goal here. He’s interestingly odd, but never quite odd enough. Wendi McLendon-Covey, Stephen Root, and Michaela Watkins are wasted, while Ciara Renée doesn’t leave too much of an impression, with the same going for Lucy Freyer in a thankless role. Supporting players include Michael Pemberton, Lusia Strus, and more.
Filmmaker Brit McAdams certainly goes all in on the premise, that much is undeniable. Sadly, it’s a half-baked one, better suited for some sort of online video or short than a feature length film. Very quickly, you get the joke, only there isn’t anything else there. The running time is padded, the performances are largely one-note, and for a weird movie, it isn’t weird enough. You just leave Paint wondering what might have been.
Paint quickly thins out despite admirable commitment to its joke and a dedicated turn from Owen Wilson. Without question, Wilson is good, but it’s not nearly enough to warrant a recommendation. At the end of the day, the movie is a cute idea, but one that’s never developed to the point of being worthy of its own existence.
“Paint is a gimmick in search of a film.” Silly comment. It was a nice film and I enjoyed the quirky humor.
Not a silly comment. A part of my review, in the same way that your comment isn’t silly. Glad you enjoyed it. I did not.