Review by Tatiana Miranda
While the film's lead does have a striking resemblance to the PBS icon, Paint is not about Bob Ross and his hit program The Joy of Painting. Instead, Paint centers around a similar yet fictional PBS host, Carl Nargle. Played by Owen Wilson, Carl Nargle resembles Bob Ross in more ways than one, including his famous afro and serene nature painting tutorials. But unlike the character's blatant inspiration, Carl is less lovable than Bob Ross. Full of himself and unaware of his declining fame, Carl begins to lose everything and everyone he loves to a younger, more modern artist that takes over his show.
While Bob Ross's The Joy of Painting ran from 1983-1994, Paint has a more modern setting. In this way and others, Paint separates itself from its source material while also cleverly utilizing these changes. Quite literally, Carl Nargle is an old soul. He uses an old-time pipe to smoke tobacco and weed, regularly wears denim-on-denim, and has difficulty using technology such as his phone. In some ways, he is a hipster icon, much like his real-life predecessor.
Almost thirty years after his death, Bob Ross has had a resurgence as both a meme and a source of nostalgia for many hipsters and millennials. Older generations who used to watch his program also have a continued love for him, similar to Carl's fanbase in Paint. While most of his fans seem to be older people watching PBS in their retirement homes, Carl has also taken on the role of a sex symbol for his younger female fans. This is perhaps the crux of the film's comedy, as Carl is routinely followed by different adoring program employees. His pursuit of the youngest of the crew closely resembles that of his show's manager, Katherine, who also had a former fling with Carl.
Katherine hopes to leave PBS and decides to hire a new host for Carl's show. The new host, Ambrosia, is young, mixed-race, and queer, which ultimately makes her a symbol of modernism. This is something that goes against Carl's old soul nature and makes them perfect opposites. Even Ambrosia's art is completely different from Carl's. Whereas Carl tends to paint the same idyllic nature landscapes, Ambrosia shakes things up, even painting a UFO spewing blood on her first show. Although Ambrosia and Carl seem to be complete opposites, they are not enemies, but Ambrosia's outgoing art and personality act as a sort of wake-up call for Carl.
Paint is a clever parody of Bob Ross's fame while also being a wholly unique comedy. Packed full of interesting characters and incredible performances, this movie is a great time for both Bob Ross fans and those unfamiliar with his work.
Paint releases in theaters on April 7.