If I saw the promos pictureYou’ve probably figured out that Owen Wilson’s Brit McAdams-starrer comedy was inspired by Bob Ross, the artist who hosted the PBS series Low Fi The joy of painting Many years before he succumbed to lymphoma at the age of 52 in 1995. Creating chart-topping albums in under 30 minutes, Ross was the unwitting progenitor of ASMR, with his inexplicably laid-back attitude, his soft-spoken style and his kind-of-burning charm. hypnotic calmness. He was also a distinct visual presence with his impossibly large mixed hair, beard and mustache, wearing jeans and a light colored shirt.
As Carl Nagle, who hosts a Vermont public television show about the painting, Wilson channels Ross’ own persona not only visually but also spiritually. It feels dead-on, as Wilson has made a career out of playing his own, slightly stunned characters who, even when they seem perfectly sober, seem to be stoned out of their minds.
It is the only line
A thousand words are better.
Unfortunately, the similarity is among the few happy aspects picture, which satirizes Ross without remaining anything of primary interest, is unlikely to say anything about him or his popular popularity. Tired of romantic comedy tropes in which Carl struggles with a declining career while juggling past and present girlfriends, the film feels as shallow as the picture Carl cranks into a highly formulaic mode.
It begins quite nicely, when you see Carl walking through the forest, pipe in hand, in such a state of happiness that you expect animated birds to land on your shoulders. It’s a lot in Burlington, Vermont, where her TV series has an audience of everyone from nursemaids to drunken prison residents. In all of his events, he thanks his viewers for allowing them to be taken to “a special place.” The license plate in the first column, which comes with the folds of a handy bed, “Paintr.” He also seems inexorable to women, including a much younger, lovelier co-worker (Lucy Freyer) with whom he begins an inept romance.
Unfortunately, Carl’s ratings are slipping, and viewers are tired of painting pictures of him on the same local mountain. His situation is further threatened by the arrival of a minor, a female artist, Ambrosia (Ciara Renee), who becomes a soldier competing in the same station; Paint with ambrosia. Carl soon finds himself an emotional exile, winning his support from the moody station manager Tony (a very funny Stephen Root) and show producer/ex-girlfriend Katherine (Michaela Watkins). When he was finally released, his university course aimed at schools full of increasingly disaffected students.
It’s hard to break down Carl’s downward spiral when his success starts to seem so silly. More seriously, writer-director McAdams doesn’t mine the singular character of MoJor for the fruit of satirical events from a few moments past, such as when an angry Carl storms into Tony’s office and silently glares. “Are you yelling at me?” He is looking for a song. “Yes,” Carl replies.
To his credit, McAdams captures the period atmosphere perfectly, right down to the time-appropriate soundtrack of such minor ’70s classics as Steve Forbert’s “Toast Romeo” and Don Williams’ “I Believe in You.” From the film’s perspective, there have been a few effective debates surrounding such things as the way street artists’ works increase in value once they’re dead, and the brave takeoff on Banksy.
But much like its central character and the quickly constructed, generic plot, the film plays too safe, content with my inspiration for easy laughs. Despite Wilson’s on-the-nose caricature and delightful comedy performances by such supporting players as Lucia Strus and the ever-reliable Wendi McLendon-Covey, picture never conducted under the surface.
Production companies: Balcony 9 Productions, Blue Creek Pictures, Silver Lining Entertainment, White Birch Films
Distributor: IFC Films
Cast: Owen Wilson, Michaela Watkins, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ciara Renee, Lucia Strus, Stephen Root, Lucy Frewer
Director-screenwriter: Brit McAdams
Managers: Peter Brant, Sam Maydew
Executive producers: Richard J. Bosner, Amy Jarvela, Joel David Moore, Owen Wilson
Director of photography: Patrick Cady
Production designer: Todd Jeffery
Publisher: Sofia Marshall
Music: Lyle Workman
Clothing designer: Allison Pearce
Cast: Rebecca Dealy
Rated PG-13, 1 hour 36 minutes