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  • Writer's pictureBruce Klein

Can He Paint? Who cares?

Carl Nagel (Owen Wilson) is on “PAINT,” a show on PBS Burlington for the last 20 years. Older fans watch him religiously, not so much younger people. But he is a touchstone of the community. We find out that Carl lives in the 1970s and doesn’t keep up. For example, he admits that he didn’t know what Uber is. Beyond that, he’s the TV station’s lothario. Women take turns having affairs with him.

Owen Wilson is “PAINT.” The movie would be a train wreck without him. He’s such an excellent comedic actor. He transforms the movie into entertainment. Every scene he’s in works well to attain a maximum level of fun. Clashes between old and young feel real. Michael Watkins (Katherine), Wendi McLendon-Covey (Wendy), and Lucy Freyer (Jenna) are outstanding.

The movie offers plenty of great laughs and one-liners, but some jokes, sight gags and characters fall flat. Steven Root was mis-casted as Tony, the station manager. He played the manager as a nincompoop who wasn’t funny or even likeable. He’s not even a good foil. All-in-all, a very brittle performance; more reminiscent of a minor role in a TV serial.

There’s too many props and repetitious dialogue. For example, the loudspeaker on the top of Carl’s van, the excessive showing of the Burlington Art Museum directional sign, preachy repetitive isms and Carl’s canned opening and closing line.

Brit McAdams, the relatively unknown writer-director, fails to pull the whole movie together. At times, the movie is preachy and at other times it approaches bawdiness. Carl is after 20 years or so, still obsessed with a painting he submitted to the Burlington Gallery of Art as a young man. His obsession not only retards his growth as an artist but retards his growth as a man.

The picture feels undercooked. It’s like an hour and a half of comedy sketches. It has so many elements it loses direction. The script lacks development and seems thrown together. Sometimes like a firecracker and sometimes like a whoopie cushion. It keeps your attention, but you wait for commercials between scenes. Or maybe, it was meant to be the first three half-hour episodes of a streaming series that never got made. In other words, it is mysteriously lacking.

The casting, except for Wilson, must have been done at the last moment. It worked more or less with the exception of Steven Root (Tony) and Luisa Strus (Beverly). Strus overplays to the point of chewing the scenery.

The casting directors must have gotten a mandate to include as least two minorities in the cast. Unfortunately, they chose Ciara Renée (Ambrosia) and Sonia Darmei Lopez (Mary). The two contribute little. There must be better minority actors willing to play in this low-budget film.

I applaud the lack of violence and cuss words in the movie.It’s refreshing to have a feature film devoid of these two potential brain-crushing elements.The movie is cute and plays well for all ages, even for children twelve and up. Aside from all its pitfalls, “PAINT” is wacky or maybe a slopy rom-com. My guess is it’s headed for a short run-in in theaters and then onto home cable or streaming.


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