Paper Man lists itself as a comedy/drama, but really I don’t think it fits either category. The movie isn’t funny by any means, and unless you consider writer’s block and bicycle riding to be drama, I think you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
The movie revolves around a middle aged author named Richard Dunn (Jeff Daniels) who suffers from writers block. He decides to get some solitude by retreating to a house where he can be by himself, and away from his wife (Lisa Kudrow) who is a surgeon. Very early in the film we are also introduced to Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds) who is Dunn’s imaginary friend. Apparently Captain Excellent has been with Dunn since childhood, and is often the voice of reason in a Jimmney Cricket sort of way.
During the film Dunn befriends a teenage girl named Abby (Emma Stone) who has her own imaginary friend named Christopher (Kieran Culkin). Really this movie is all about the characters with no true central plot.
Dunn’s marriage is on the rocks, he can’t seem to get started on his book- which is due in three months to his publisher, his imaginary friend won’t leave him alone, and he’s become attached to a young girl named Abby in a very innocent way. The writers go to extreme lengths to show Dunn as a loser. For most of the film Dunn doesn’t drive a car. Instead he gets around by pedaling a broken down bicycle around town- which is painful to watch.
Abby is a lonely sort of girl who is treated like dirt by her boyfriend. She has a dead sister, and parents who never appear in the movie. She also has an imaginary friend who helps her deal with the guilt of her sister’s death.
Clair Dunn is Richard’s wife. She’s a surgeon of some sort and is frustrated with her husband’s lack of maturity. She wants him to grow up, is frustrated by the fact that he still has an imaginary friend, and has basically become bitter over the years.
Its a sort of artsy film. There is no real action, suspense, mystery, comedy, or thrills in this film. I didn’t hate it, and that is about the best thing I can say for it.
The cast is a group of B+ actors that I happen to like. Jeff Daniels and Lisa Kudrow seem like they’d make a great team, and Ryan Reynolds has been great in every flick I’ve ever seen him in. Emma Stone has been in half a dozen films now and does a good job overall. Yet somehow this great cast, tossed together in this movie with no discernable plot, strained dialogue, and a quietness that just drags, just doesn’t work. Kudrow and Reynolds get very little screen time, and the totality of Reynolds’ dialogue in the entire film could be rattled off in about three minutes. Also there is hardly any music to accompany the action on screen, resulting in very quiet scenes mostly played out by Daniels alone in a house.
With this cast the movie could have been so much better than it was. Shame on the director and the writers for killing this film. If you’re looking for comedy or drama, look elsewhere. If I had paid to see this movie in a theater I would have requested a refund.
If you’re just in the mood for something different, and really want to see an artsy, raw sort of film about people and relationships then you might give this movie a once over. As for me, I give this movie half a star simply because the actors really came through on their roles, but everything else was an epic fail in my opinion.
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