PAPER TOWNS

— by Jeff Schultz
John Hughes lives! As a sucker for bright-eyed, big-hearted high school movies, I was able here to overlook a major casting misstep and the stretchy premise leading to a “surprise” ending that isn’t difficult to foresee. As the dream girl, Cara Delavingne is supposed to be beautiful, mysterious, fascinating, intellectual, emotionally reckless and elusive yet accessible. The actress/model can’t pull it off, but we have to go with it because she’s the hero’s grail and the journey he takes to find her after she disappears is the key to his self-discovery. Fortunately, the hero is played by Nat Wolff, best known for his supporting role in another movie based on a John Green novel, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Wolff’s puppy dog vulnerability, liquid eyes and scrubbed innocence are generic to the genre, but there’s an intelligence to his acting that could take him places. (He’s set to appear in James Franco’s adaptation of Steinbeck’s IN DUBIOUS BATTLE). And Wolff’s sweetness is offset by the very funny Austin Abrams (Ron Anderson on “The Walking Dead”) who has the traditional sidekick role and runs with it. Mostly what I like about these kind of movies, when they’re done right, is the intensity of the friendships made during that transition to adulthood and the bittersweet sense of a chapter ending as graduation comes and the kids go their separate ways to college. It’s this part of PAPER TOWNS, rather than the dream girl quest, that shines.

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