Paper Man

Film
2 out of 5 stars
Paper Man

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Let the film’s use of an imaginary friend be your first warning: Paper Man wants to quirk you into submission. Richard Dunn (Daniels) is a middle-aged man-child who retreats to Montauk, Long Island, for a long winter’s battle against writer’s block. His hands hover over an old Smith Corona, but lo, the page remains blank. So off he goes, exploring town on a kid-sized banana-seat bike, befriending a raven-haired high-school girl (Stone) and consulting his own private, spandex-clad hallucination, Captain Excellent (Reynolds). His surgeon wife (Kudrow) occasionally shows up to spiral into hysterics and make us sympathize with Richard’s white-guy regression. Soon, he’s constructing a couch out of unsold copies of his first novel and making origami swans. Richard’s self-doubt eventually butterflies into false humility, thus making it safe for the bourgeois creative class to drive back to Brooklyn.

Fine performers can’t salvage a toxically precious script, though Stone (Zombieland), with her disarming poise, makes a go of it. Reynolds deserves credit for committing to a put-upon, bottle-blond, holographic superhero—and still, the film dies whenever he’s onscreen. Husband-and-wife writer-directors Keiran and Michele Mulroney try to smooth over implausibilities with an intrusive emo soundtrack and “dramedic” feints, but the effort is useless. Unfunny and unserious, Paper Man ends up the equivalent of a thin sheet blowing in the wind.—Eric Hynes

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