Adapted from the bestselling novel by John Green, PAPER TOWNS is a coming-of-age story centering on Quentin, a high school senior who has been in love with his enigmatic neighbor Margo since childhood. After taking him on an all-night adventure through their hometown, Margo suddenly disappears--leaving behind cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. The search leads Quentin and his quick-witted friends on an exhilarating adventure that is equal parts hilarious and moving. Ultimately, to track down Margo, Q must find a deeper understanding of friendship--and true love.
The Young Adult market is saturating not only bookstore shelves but also taking a crack at pulling in some more of teens' allowance money by adapting these books into movies. Directed by Jake Schreier from the hit John Green novel, 'Paper Towns' taps into that familiar teenage coming of age genre. While it may not reinvent the wheel, it proves to still be insightful and entertaining.
Life for Quentin (Nat Wolff) has, for the most part, been spent looking out his bedroom window. Never a very adventurous kid, he keeps to himself, and never really did anything troublesome. That all changed the day Margo (Cara Delevingne) moved in across the street. Even though they were just little kids at the time, Quentin's attraction to Margo was instantaneous and the two became fast friends. For awhile anyway. As it happens with a lot of friendships, Quentin and Margo drifted apart. Margo had her set of popular friends and Quentin hung out with fellow nerds Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justin Smith), but Quentin never stopped looking across the street hoping that Margo would climb through his window and whisk him off onto another adventure. When he least expects it, Quentin gets his wish.
It turns out not everything in Margo's life is sunshine and roses and she hasn't quite forgotten her good old friend Quentin. Margo is on a mission of revenge against all of those within her little circle of friends and she requires Quentin's help. As the pair are mere weeks away from graduating high school, Quentin ever the cautious one of the duo, is a bit reluctant to do anything that would jeopardize the future he's mapped out for himself. Margo, on the other hand, lives life by shooting from the hip and pushes Quentin to act on his impulses. Together the pair stage wild acts of vengeance against Margo's inner circle of friends and share a magical and wonderful night that leaves Quentin believing that he and Margo have a future together. Only Margo doesn't come back to school the next day, or the day after, or the day after that.
As Margo's disappearance has everyone talking, theories about where the girl took off to fill the school hallways. Because she's taken off before, Margo's parents aren't the least bit concerned about their daughter and refuse to issue a missing person report. The last times Margo took off, Margo left clues with her little sister, now Quentin is convinced that Margo is leaving him clues. As he starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together, Quentin enlists the aid of Ben and Radar and Margo's best friend Lacey (Halston Sage) and Radar's girlfriend Angela (Jaz Sinclair) to come with him on a last minute road trip two days before prom to rural New York to find Margo.
'Paper Towns' is a story that deals very frankly with the fantasy and reality of having a crush. The person you believe is the embodiment of human perfection usually turns out to be the exact opposite. While Quentin may have this dream ideal that he's worked his personal image of Margo to fit that mold, but the girl turns out to be far different than anyone could ever expect. The idol in this case only has a veneer of gold and the true metal underneath may not be as desirable. The school-age crush is something everyone experiences and as those crushes turn into obsessions, it becomes harder and harder to see the truth of the situation. It's in these moments that 'Paper Towns' as a film finds its true strengths. While so much of the film and the story plays like something we've already seen and heard before, the film's overall message about reality versus fantasy is what keeps the story fresh and meaningful.
Author John Green is starting to feel like the "Stephen King of the 2010s" as his books are being rapidly adapted into films in quick succession. After the critical and financial success of 'The Fault in Our Stars,' an adaptation of 'Paper Towns' was swiftly greenlit. With 'The Fault in Our Stars' screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber hired to tackle the adaptation, one would expect magic caught in a bottle twice. In reality, the results are only pretty good. As a fairly faithful adaptation, the film truncates the beginning meeting between Margo and Quentin and offers a bit more material at the tail end to help round out some of the side characters. Where 'The Fault in Our Stars' dealt with life and death, the themes that are explored around teenage crushes just doesn't feel as weighty or as meaningful. So much of 'Paper Towns' feels like a combination of other films and stories that it becomes hard to see the originality in the material. But if you look close enough, especially if you analyze the film's somber yet rewarding closing moments, you'll find the originality and significant weight and morals you're looking for.
To that end, 'Paper Towns' as a film rises and falls with the performances of its impressively talented young cast. Nat Wolff as Quentin is very strong casting and the young actor plays the amiable and determined lead very well. It's through his eyes that we see and hear the world of Margo, so as an audience we needed to feel his feelings for the young girl and he plays his level of forlorn love and obsessiveness just right. We can understand his crush and relate to his heart pangs just enough so that it feels real and not creepy - as it could easily have turned out to be. At his side are Justin Smith as Radar and Austin Abrams as Ben and together they help round out Quentin's character nicely and it's easy to see the importance of their friendship. However, at the end of the day, 'Paper Towns' wouldn't be much without a convincing Margo played well by Cara Delevingne. Margo is a character that could have easily slipped into "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" territory, but thankfully Cara avoided all of those pitfalls. As we meet her Margo we can see Quentin's attraction and at the same time, as the story progresses, it becomes easy to see why we and therefor Quentin shouldn't really be all that attracted to the girl. It's a tough dynamic and I felt Cara pulled it off nicely.
'Paper Towns' is one of those movies that ultimately comes down to being a nice, pretty good little movie to enjoy on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It's a story that more or less has already been told before so for those looking for something new, you're not likely to find it here. If you want to enjoy a movie for being entertaining and having a decent story with some good young talent, you should be happy with this pick. Fans of the book should be pleased with how this one came to life and the film shows that John Green's literary material still has some cinematic appeal. We'll just have to see how 'Looking for Alaska' turns out.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Paper Towns' arrives on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox and is pressed onto a Region A locked BD50 disc. Housed in a dual disc eco-friendly case with identical slip cover, the disc comes with a DVD and Digital HD iTunes or Ultraviolet redemption code. The disc opens to a few trailers before reaching its main menu.
'Paper Towns' makes for a pleasing home video entry on Blu-ray with this 2.40:1 1080p transfer. This film either takes place in the dark or during the amber hues of late spring early summer daylight. The first half of the film is largely the "Margo's Revenge" sequence which takes place almost entirely at night. The black levels are fine, not blow your hair back, the image feels a bit flat at times during these sequences, but otherwise it's a pleasing image. When the movie segues to the "Where's Margo" chapters, the image looks much more consistent with fine black levels, rich colors that give everything a warm golden color that doesn't adversely alter the look of flesh tones. Detail throughout the film is spot on and looks wonderful. From the details of the suburban homes to the clothing to fine facial features, everything comes through with crystal clarity. All around a great looking transfer.
It shouldn't be any surprise, but the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track for 'Paper Towns' is fantastic. Dialogue comes through crisp and cleanly without any distortion. Because of the film's smart usage of current pop music hits as well as a nice somber score by Ryan Lott, the surround channels are constantly being used in some fashion. When the film hits the quieter more conversational moments, there are just enough ambient and background sound elements working to keep the surrounds engaged creating a full and rich audio pallet. Imaging is also pretty strong allowing for plenty of channel movement, especially during "Margo's Revenge" and the film's road trip scenes. The track keeps things to the midranges and is well balanced so you shouldn't have to monitor your volume.
Audio Commentary: Author John Green and Director Jake Schreier sit down together for this decent commentary track. There's some information to be gleaned from this commentary, but most of it is pretty self-congratulatory. I dig that John Green sounds genuinely amazed to be there and appreciative that his book became a movie at all.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 3:54) Your basic tried and true cut material. Some of it more from the book but not very necessary and doesn't really tie into a movie experience very cleanly. Also features an optional commentary with Director Jake Schreier and Author John Green who offer some insights into the reason why the material was cut.
Alternate Scene: (HD 1:57) "Shake It Off"It's another version of a pretty funny scene in the movie where they sing Taylor Swift's hit song.
Gag Reel: (HD 3:08) Some funny moments, some feel a bit "scripted" but mostly this is your usual on set cutups.
The Making of Paper Towns: (HD 21:09) Consists of three segments "Playing Out the Strings," "Building a Paper Town," and "John Green on Set" Pretty standard EPK material here, but still informative and fun.
John and Nat: Lightning Round: (HD 8:04) John Green launches a bunch of questions at the young actor. It's actually pretty funny material and worth a watch.
John and Cara: Lightning Round: (HD 5:15) Not quite as much fun as the John and Nat one but it's still pretty good.
Van Chats: Consists of "Memorable Moments," "Coming of Age," "Road Trips," and "Lurlene." Each are a little over a minute long where John Green interviews various actors in the film all leading to a promotional card for the film's theatrical release date.
Gallery: (HD 2:04) You can either let the images click by at their own pace, or you can scroll through them on your own, they're your typical set photos and stills from the movie.
Trailer: (HD 2:26) A solid trailer that maybe tried to pull too hard towards those who went and saw 'The Fault in Our Stars' - very different movies and I feel like they got marketed very similarly.
'Paper Towns' was a fine film that plays well to the Young Adult target audience. It's a familiar coming of age story that has a unique amount of honesty to it. Unchallenging entertainment but still very good. 20th Century Fox has done a pretty great job pulling this Blu-ray release together offering a strong A/V presentation with a nice assortment of extra features to pick through. Recommended.