From 1983 through 1994, painter Bob Ross hosted the PBS show, The Joy of Painting, on PBS. This movie is probably different from his story. Writer/director Brit McAdams has conceived of a comedy film based very loosely on the impact of Bob Ross and his program. The movie is intended as a parody of Ross and his show; however, the result is a disappointingly undercooked and lacking movie that fails to utilize the acting talents involved completely. That is not to say that the film doesn’t have its funny moments, because it does. Still, the writing fails to deliver much of a story or any thoroughly satisfying comedic gags that would’ve made Paint a comedy classic.
Owen Wilson stars as Carl Nargle, a strikingly accurate visual facsimile of Bob Ross. Nargle has hosted a moderately successful painting show on a Vermont PBS affiliate for three decades. The problem is that Nargle episodes and other programming on the channel still need to achieve the same level of viewership the network had during its heyday. PBS programmers Katherine (Michaela Watkins) and Tony (Stephen Root) both have some difficult choices to make with their channel’s future and in a desperate attempt to salvage the painting show, they have chosen to cast an additional time slot for the show, following Carl Nargle’s program, with another painting show featuring a younger and more vibrant personality in the form of artist Abrosia (Ciara Renée). Unfortunately, Carl doesn’t take too kindly to this new competition, Yet, at the same time, the struggling artist fails to invigorate his program with any new and exciting work.
I can say the same thing about this movie. While filmmaker McAdams has some fun ideas, she fails to deliver anything exciting or hilarious. The film comes across as an amusing oddity, and all of the references to Bob Ross and his show are fine, but there is a little depth to the story and its characters. The entirety of the gags involving Carl Nargle is that he has remained existing as a product of the 1970s, and this idea runs very thin after a while. While I occasionally laughed during the movie, the entire plot structure could be more exciting and entertaining.
This is an absolute shame because the talented cast of characters assembled for the film is some of comedy’s best-working people in the business right now. In addition to Wilson, Watkins, Renée, and Root, Paint features performances by Wendi McLendon-Covey, Lucy Freyer, and Lusia Strus. I feel that most of these fine actors have so little to do, and the writing does their talents a great injustice.
Regarding my recommendations, Paint is watchable and can be enjoyed but ultimately disappointing. I would not recommend rushing out to see this movie in the theater, and it would be best enjoyed at home if nothing else interesting happens to be available.