Not necessarily as deep as Fault In Our Stars, but just the same way as Aladdin isn’t as dirty as the South Park Movie–they’re aiming at two different things. Paper Towns intends to be a high school coming-of-age-comedy, and the latter is about dealing with death on a whole other level.
Paper Towns revolves around the geeky and inexperienced Quentin (Nat Wolff) and his neighbor/crush, Margo (Cara Delevingne), who is the most popular girl in school as well as an adventurous rebel. After having the night of his life with her, Quentin realizes that Margo has gone missing and that she has left clues for him to find. He plans on finding her and proving his lifelong love for her.
The overall theme here is experiencing high school for both the first and last time. Quentin realizes how to finally live his life and experience adolescence, but only weeks before he graduates. His best friends, Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), are just like him. The three friends’ rapport is so genuine and their banter feels so real and unscripted that it plays as a home movie at times.
The character of Margo is one we’ve seen before. She’s the Dawson’s Creek-esque teen who uses big words and impossibly seems to know everything as though she’s lived a lifetime full of experiences. She speaks very tritely and pretentiously, yet we’re supposed to sympathize with everyone’s enchantment with her. She, as a character, is fake. Although she’s supposed to be the main focus of the story, sadly she’s one of the things that doesn’t work with the film. But of course, it’s the idea of her that we must focus on while watching the film.
It pulls from many teen coming-of-age comedies. You have the adventure, the romance, the getting-into-trouble. Many of the situations and themes are very obviously inspired by John Hughes films–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While not seeming to be unique by borrowing from various sources, the writers add their own flair and compile these components into one unique story.
Paper Towns is really really funny. It also manages to be full of spirit and purpose. However, towards the end of the 2nd act it slows down considerably and the tone shifts. Eventually it turns from mystery to cliched rote without truly giving us an ending worth the buildup. But it needs to happen this way. You’ll see when you watch the movie.
But it does give you a sort of romantic feeling about your youth. No matter who you were in high school, it makes you either miss it or wish you did more. It speaks across several generations of teenagers reminding them that no one’s got it all figured out.