Movie Review: “Paper Towns” a shaky but fun adventure

The latest book to movie adaptation by critically acclaimed author of “The Fault in Our Stars” John Green, “Paper Towns” proved to be that intrinsically fun sort of movie we count on each summer. The story follows Quentin “Q” Jacobsen, a high school senior stuck in his comfort zone and dying to have an adventure. When his longtime crush and neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman, a rebellious and exciting popular girl, suddenly turns up at his window one night offering up a night of pranks and debatable misdemeanors, how could he say no?

First and foremost, despite that description, this is not a gooey romance like the first half hour or so would have you believe. Minor spoiler, but most of the trailers already leaked this: Margo goes missing after her and Q’s big night, and he makes it his personal mission to get inside her head and follow after her with his best friends. This movie works in three well constructed acts, first letting us all fall in love a little with Margo along with Q, then decoding her incredibly cryptic clues while balancing the end of high school and ending with that inevitable roadtrip to track her down.

Admittedly, I despised the original book, but I really enjoyed this film adaptation. What I liked so much about it was how just how human our main cast of characters felt. Initially, they’re all surface level stereotypes (angsty suburban white boy, manic pixie dream girl, geeky best friends and the ditzy pretty girl), but by the end the story had turned them all on their heads and brought them down to earth. However, this film doesn’t do a stellar job with each character necessarily, and both Q and Margo are either going to dazzle or irk the heck out of you by the end, no inbetween. Cara Delevingne as Margo definitely wasn’t what most fans envisioned for the role, but there’s no denying her talent and natural on screen chemistry. Love Margo or hate her, Delevingne knocked it out of the park portraying her. Nat Wolff as Q showcased his acting chops, showing how that sympathetically awkward friend of yours might not always be the hero of his own story. Also, there is a great cameo near the end that everyone went bananas for, so there is that to look forward to.

The best part of this movie for me wasn’t the wild night out most of us only dreamed about in high school like Q had with Margo, but the ensemble scenes near the end. When Q was just goofing around with his friends in school or on their road trip, that was when the magic happened. Those scenes were all hilarious, every last one of them, and reminded me of times I’d had in high school. This film relies heavily on both relatability and nostalgia from its audience, and for the most part it achieves them.

However, the story that both this film and the book try to tell isn’t as deep or profound as it would like to think that it is. So much of it was original, yes, and delightfully quirky at times, but so much of it was either terribly predictable (really, another teen movie revolving around Prom?) or outlandishly pretentious. While “Take risks! Live your life! Do what you want!” are pretty messages, they’ve been done to death and are too idealistic not to roll your eyes at once you’ve finished high school.

So while this movie was pillared by strong performances of complex characters, their storylines might rub an audience older than 16 the wrong way. “Paper Towns” was hilarious, quotable, thoughtful and pleasing to the eye, but fell victim to a multitude of teen movie cliches and got lost in its own wide-eyed idealistic monologuing at times. This wasn’t my favorite teen summer movie, but it sure was a fun ride.

Verdict: 4/5 stars