‘Paint’ movie is a waste of time

Bob Ross inspired film is unfunny, filled with two-dimensional characters

Alex Hoag

Fair use from IFC Films


Ever since it was announced that Owen Wilson was going to play a Bob Ross inspired character, nearly everybody has been counting down the days until this new comedy releases. 


“Paint” was originally a screenplay written in 2010 by Brit McAdams and was on the list of that year’s most liked, unproduced screenplays. “Paint” follows Burlington artist Carl Nargle (Owen Wilson) navigate his way through the changing TV and art industry that he has been in for the past 30 years. 


Carl Nargle is an obvious representation of the iconic Bob Ross. Even though they don’t directly say that the character is based on Ross, the soothing voice, infamous curly hair and notorious nature scenes all represent aspects of the late Floridian artist. Even though Nargle is based on Ross and they share near-identical traits, Nargle is a more egotistical version of Ross. In this film, Nargle is a big-headed and sexist small town celebrity that thinks he deserves the world. This is the one difference between Ross and the character Nargle. Ross was never accused of these things, and it’s an important detail to note when creating such a similar character to him.


The film starts off with Nargle painting one of his scenic Vermont paintings, which has given him a large following over the course of the last few decades. You see women swoon for Carl early in the movie and the effect he has on his community. People praise him like a godly figure, which over time starts to impact his ego and how he treats the people in his life. The PBS channel that Nargle stars in is losing viewers, so it takes on a new, talented artist by the name of Ambrosia (Ciara Renée). The competition starts to eat away at not only Nargle’s screen time but also his behavior. Over the last few years Nargle has struggled with inspiration, which has resulted in him painting the same mountain over and over again —  once more resulting in him losing screen time and becoming a worse person. In the end you see an attempt at redemption for Nargle as he tries to undo the wrongs he has caused throughout his fame. 


By far the best aspect of the film was the 80’s theme throughout the movie. Even though the film took place in our present day, the film still seemed like it took place on an 80’s TV set. There was limited technology, all of the furnishing was vintage and the outfits looked straight out of a Sears catalog. Even Nargle’s painting set looked just like Bob Ross’ when he was on “The Joy of Painting” in the 80’s. Overall, the vintage look was the only thing I enjoyed throughout the entire movie.


Even though the movie itself had a cool vibe, Nargle himself was hard to root for. Even from the beginning he seemed very full of himself. He only acknowledges the women in his office when he’s dating them or he wants something. This left a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the film, and even in the end, it seemed like he hadn’t redeemed himself. This made me dislike Nargle even more, because he hadn’t truly corrected any of his mistakes.


Besides the egotistical and sexist main character, all of the other supporting actors were flat with not much personality. They weren’t super involved in the plot, and their main purpose throughout the film was to comfort and support Nargle (until they ultimately turned on him). The one exception is Ambrosia, Nargle’s competition and the girlfriend of Nargle’s ex. She’s very kind to everyone in the studio and brings a new point of view to PBS that is desperately needed. She’s also very creative, which is not only shown through her paintings, but also her outfits and personality. Ambrosia always dresses in bright colors and treats all the women in the office with a respect that they weren’t given previously. Ambrosia was by far the best character in the film and definitely should not be viewed as the antagonist of this movie. She was doing her job and honestly, deserved so much more than what she was given. 


The film was categorized as a comedy, but I did not find myself laughing at much. There were scenes that were supposed to be funny, but they were pretty low-effort and made me cringe. I’m not sure if this is what the director was going for but the jokes came off as immature and uncomfortable. Throughout the movie I found myself with a wrinkled up face as a result of listening to too many poor jokes. 


Despite the many drawbacks, this film did have some nice qualities. The cinematography and set design was superb, as well as the costumes. In the end, how good a movie looks is not the deciding factor on if it’s good or bad. The plot was confusing, the characters one-sided and the main character was a jerk. I was very excited about “Paint” but in the end it fell short.


“Paint:” ★★☆☆☆