review   |   weekend

'Paper Towns' falls paper flat


Still of Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne in "Paper Towns." (Michael Tackett/Twentieth Century Fox) Twentieth Century Fox / TNS Buy Photos

Grade: C+

It is a treacherous thing to believe a person is more than a person.

It’s also a treacherous thing to believe any movie adaptation will to live up to the book — and that’s okay.

I’ve seen enough Harry Potter films to know a distinct and satisfactory product can come from extraordinary works of fiction.

So I was on board for the “Paper Towns” movie and had realistic expectations of what I might see.

Therefore, I wasn’t really disappointed — or surprised — when it turned out to be a drizzle instead of a downpour.

Unlike last summer’s blockbuster “The Fault in Our Stars,” this John Green adaptation doesn’t lend itself well to the big screen.

Like taking an exposé and cutting it to a 140-character tweet, a lot of the finer details are lost.

And details are the essence of John Green books.

“Paper Towns” takes viewers back to final days of high school through the eyes of Quentin Jacobsen, portrayed by Nat Wolff.

Wolff played a supporting role in “TFIOS” and impressed enough to earn the lead in this coming-of-age story.

He is more successful as a comedic foil.

Wolff lacks half the star power of Cara Delevingne, who portrays Quentin’s romantic interest, the elusive Margo Roth Spiegelman.

Margo is one thing director Jake Schreier got right. Green has a knack for creating strong female characters — vis-à-vis Hazel Grace Lancaster and Alaska Young — and he didn’t spare any talent when fashioning Spiegelman.

The only problem? She is absent for more than half the movie.

After challenging Quentin to rethink his safe and conventional life, Margo disappears. But not before leaving Quentin a series of clues as to her whereabouts.

Challenge accepted.

“Paper Towns” is a search for Margo Roth Spiegelman, but, really, it’s about discovering a new path.

The film exposes the hollowness of a traditional, ‘paper’ lifestyle — college, career, marriage, kids — and encourages viewers to find happiness now.

Though the message is mired by cinematic tropes and clichés about high school — like prom and parties and having sex for the first time — the takeaway is valuable to all ages.

And using the concept of a paper town to pull it all together? Pure genius — which, of course, is pure Green.

For those who don’t actively troll omnictionary, a paper town is a fake location printed on maps to deter copy right infringement.

My favorites are Beatosu and Goblu, a pair of Ohio paper towns invented by University of Michigan cartographers as a stick-it to their arch rival.

Through Margo, the paper town takes on a more complex meaning — the idea of being someone else’s fabrication, a paper girl, and not being able to live up to the fantasy.

Pretty deep notion for a ‘paper’ film — don’t you think?

In the end, the “Paper Towns” movie will enthrall those who have read the book because they can bring the elements of Green the picture is lacking.

But for the average moviegoer, the experience falls paper flat.

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