Picture this: Paparazzi is pathetic

Sept. 8, 2004, midnight | By Kiran Bhat | 19 years, 7 months ago

Unoriginal plot and anticlimactic premise make for a pitiful movie

An All-American wife sits on the patio, a blanket draped over her knees. As she relaxes on this picturesque Malibu day, a suspicious bearded man peeks at her from behind a tree. He begins a Hannibal Lecter-like stalk, sneaking out from behind a tree, and quickly retreating. The tension builds in a crescendo of music. And then, in one, swift anticlimactic motion, the man who looked so sinister in his intent whips out his fancy Nikon camera and snaps a photo. This is the nature of Paparazzi, a boring movie that has no right to call itself a suspense thriller.

The production credits for Paparazzi go to none other than recently minted Hollywood moneymaker Mel Gibson. Following Gibson's self-proclaimed spiritual experience in creating and directing The Passion of the Christ, he seems to have nothing left in the tank. Paparazzi, his most recent picture, suffers from a serious lack of, well, everything. The dialogue is hackneyed and melodramatic. The character development is practically non-existent, and the special effects that might have been a saving grace are absent. From beginning to end, Paparazzi manages to get very little right.

The film starts with beautiful shots of the Los Angeles skyline, which are quickly spoiled by director Paul Abascal when we are abruptly taken to an obscenely unrealistic premiere of a new movie starring action sensation Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser, 2 Fast 2 Furious), an oversized-belt-buckle-wearing, GMC-Yukon-driving Montana roughneck, and Paparazzi's protagonist. As Laramie pulls up in his limo with his family, we are also introduced to his wife Abby (Robin Tunney) and son Zach (Blake Bryan).

And then, in a flash, we are suddenly at Zach's soccer game the next morning. As Laramie converses with the coach, paparazzo Rex Harper (Tom Sizemore, Saving Private Ryan) begins snapping photos of little Zach. Laramie approaches, asking Harper to stop politely, and Harper acquiesces. However when the photographer begins again, Laramie lays the man out with mean looking right hook to the face. Harper then pulls open a van door, where his fellow photographers, Wendell, Leonard and Kevin (Daniel Baldwin, Tom Hollander and Kevin Gage, respectively) are ready to collect pictures of the incident. This shenanigan leaves Bo sentenced to anger management classes.

But Harper, who theatrically claims that he wants to destroy Laramie's life and eat Laramie's soul, is just warming up. A plan of Harper's to photograph the action star while he is driving leads to a car wreck in which Laramie is blindsided by another driver. The paparazzi then hop out of their cars and start snapping their cameras. The car accident, which Abascal created with precision, was one of a few moments in the entire film worthy of praise for above-average cinematography. However, this plot event was copied from the Princess Diana crash of over half-a-decade ago, making it formulaic, predictable and a cheap attempt to stir up emotions.

In any case, as Laramie wakes from a blunt-trauma induced stupor, he sees ahead of him broken glass, and that menacing Rex Harper taking a photograph. This tough guy won't have anyone taking pictures of his debilitated family, and therefore, decides on revenge.

The rest of the film centers around Laramie's attempts to murder, frame, and otherwise injure the photographers that sent his wife and son (but remarkably not himself) to the hospital. But instead of creating a tense atmosphere with Laramie as the hunter, the film simply festers. The action is dull and lackluster, Laramie's methods of revenge are confusing, the LAPD's incompetence is astounding, and the paparazzi don't even put up a fight.

While the movie was for the most part clichéd and shallow, there were some hilarious moments, including cameos by the film's producer Gibson, and funnyman Chris Rock. In addition, the ending is pronouncedly more entertaining than the rest of the movie. Still, the great ending feels like too little too late.

The bottom line is that Paparazzi failed to amount to anything but an end-of-summer B movie. The film could have been deep if the script had played to Laramie's subtleties instead of his testosterone-induced rage. In the end, Paparazzi is just a movie about mean cameramen who anger the wrong dude. Not a very thrilling experience.

Paparazzi is rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences, sexual content and language

Kiran Bhat. Kiran Bhat is a senior who loves the Washington Redskins, 24, Coldplay, Kanye West, Damien Rice, Outkast and Common (Sense). He aspires to be the next Sanjay Gupta. He will miraculously grow a Guptaesque telegenic face and sculpted body by the age of 30. In … More »

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