Paper Towns (2015)

(Netflix Streaming, May 2016) I felt moderately clever in finding strong similarities between The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Town … but that lasted only until I realized that both are movie adaptation of novels by John Green. Both feature disaffected teenagers trying to break free of what is expected of them and coming to some kind of personal epiphany. More significantly, both are somewhat wittier takes on familiar young-adult elements. In Paper Town’s case, a shy protagonist is pushed into an adventure of self-discovery by a far more audacious neighbour on which he harbours a crush. An enjoyable first act (involving a wild night of revenge) too quickly leads to a more sedate follow-up treasure hunt and road trip to a non-existent city. It’s relatively satisfying to watch, although some of the material can feel leisurely, and the film takes some pleasure in not delivering a conventionally pat conclusion. The journey is the destination, of course, and when it comes to teenage characters, I’d rather spend time with self-aware worrywarts than moronic caricatures. Nat Wolff plays a sympathetic protagonist, even though his job remains to be befuddled by Cara Delevingne’s far more self-assured heroine. Paper Town will reach its audience among high-schoolers, but it has a few things to offer to older viewers as well, and a few welcome departures from the usual downtrodden path of teenage romance.

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