Review: Paint


Did you know that Paint isn’t actually a movie about Bob Ross? Based on all of the marketing and co-opting of some of Ross’s aesthetics and major bullet point of his life, you would assume that Paint would be a biopic of sorts of the legendary artist’s life. Nope, it’s just a drama/comedy that feels like an imitation of the genuine article.

But that’s hardly the weirdest thing about Paint because the more I thought about it, the more my mind gravitated to the strange decisions made by writer/director Brit McAdams. There are a lot of little oddities about this movie that really made me question why no one stopped in the middle of production to ask why they were going in the direction they did. For every moment that works in Paint, there are plenty more moments that leave a weird taste in your mouth. Bob Ross said there are no mistakes, but rather happy accidents, but if that’s the case, then Paint is absolutely elated.

Paint - Official Trailer - Feat. Owen Wilson | HD | IFC Films

Director: Brit McAdams
Release Date: April 7, 2023 (Limited)
Rating: R

Much like Bob Ross, Carl Nargle (Owen Wilson) is a well-known painter with a show for PBS, though Nargle’s show is set in Vermont, which is one of the most popular blocks of television in the state. People love him, he loves himself, and he’s good at what he does. However, when a young new painter comes to work for PBS named Ambrosia (Ciara Renee), Nargle quickly finds himself being overshadowed and all of his flaws come out into the light, putting him into a desperate spiral to stay relevant and find some way to put the spotlight back on himself. When those efforts fail, Carl has to realize that in order for him to gain back what he lost, he needs to become a better person.

I don’t think I can overstate how difficult it was for me to leave the mindset that this wasn’t a movie about Bob Ross. I know that a movie should be judged entirely on its own merit and not on what it doesn’t do, but when so many elements of Paint are directly ripped from Ross’s own life, it’s hard not to notice it. Whether it be Nargle’s design, Wilson’s quiet demeanor portraying him, his occupation, his PBS show, and even Ross’s infidelities, Paint feels like a knock-off film much in the same way a mockbuster would quickly capitalize on a major blockbuster, the difference here being that there is no major blockbuster to capitalize on. It’s just a random comedy with some dramatic elements.

It’s a stretch to think of Paint as a comedy though. Yes, there are funny moments, like when a woman that Nargle is seducing throws away being vegan at the chance to suck his fingers, but most of the comedy is very dry. I don’t dislike a dry sense of humor, but it’s less funny and weirder how all of the film’s humor comes from how horny everyone is. At first, it’s a little bit humorous how they paint Nargle as this god of seduction, but after about 10 minutes when the joke wears out, you realize that’s the only joke the movie has going for it.

Review: Paint

Copyright: IFC Films

To his credit, Owen Wilson tries to do his best with what he’s given. The scenes where he’s imitating Ross’s demeanor in his version of The Joys of Painting are nice and he does radiate a certain warmness. The problem is that most of the time Wilson comes across less like an actual person and more of a parody, always speaking in soft whispers and never eliciting any emotion other than his dull and hushed tones. Even in moments where he should be full of emotions like rage, sadness, or joy, it’s always just general pleasantness, unafraid to really break from this perception of what Bob Ross is. That’s not really an actor problem however, that’s a directorial error.

In truth, most of the issues I have with the movie come down to directorial decisions. For example, I am genuinely confused about the actual setting of the film. Nargle is established to have been doing his PBS show for 22 years and everyone drives cars like they’re from the 70s or 80s. There are talks of people not really having cable, Banksy is briefly mentioned at the end as having just begun, putting the film firmly at the beginning of the 90s. However, then we have people making references to Dancing With The Stars and Uber, both of which only came about in the late 2000s, throwing the timeline completely out of whack. Something like that shouldn’t matter much, but if the film can’t even establish when its setting is, that’s a problem that should have been sorted out early.

Paint is a messy film to watch. The direction that Wilson and the cast are given makes the film feel very stilted and unable to really elevate the tired tropes that were done better in movies like Anchorman. The writing is all over the place and simple mistakes were not addressed. It’s a small movie, lasting only 95 minutes, but it feels like it didn’t have enough time to really do anything in that time other than peddle out a pastiche of something way better. All I’m going to say is that there’s a reason that this script was blacklisted back in 2010 and took 13 years for it to be made.




Paint is a confused movie that doesn't really know what to do with its Bob Ross parody, delivering a dry, inoffensive, but mostly dull knock-off of the man and his life.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.