September 3rd, 2004
Movies about Hollywood rarely interest anyone outside Hollywood. No one outside of the business really cares about the problems of the rich and famous. Regular people have their own junk to deal with. So why does Hollywood keep making these vanity projects? The latest in these "Woe is the life of a superstar" movies is "Paparazzi," a poorly constructed tale of revenge that makes no sense at the outset and just keeps getting more ridiculous by the moment. Featuring several good actors who should know better than to make a movie like this, and several cameos from famous stars (including producer Mel Gibson), "Paparazzi" should only be viewed when the best other choice on television is whatever latest product Ron Popeil is selling at four in the morning.
Cole Hauser, the talented son of B-actor legend Wings Hauser, gets his first starring role after a dozen years of strong supporting roles in movies like "Dazed and Confused" and "Good Will Hunting," as rising star Bo Laramie. As our film is beginning, Bo and his family are in a limo, arriving at the premiere for his first starring role, in a big action film. The crowds are roaring and the photographers are popping away. It's Bo's first taste of stardom, and he's enjoying it. But the fame bug starts to bite back the very next day, when Bo is out with his son getting coffee and Danishes, when a fan approaches him in his favorite quaint coffee shop and asks him to sign a copy of "Paparazzi" magazine, which features a cover shot of Bo and his wife in the buff. While Bo understands a certain loss of privacy is expected when you reach star status, and doesn't really mind people taking his picture, he does have a problem when his family is brought into the action. Bo feels the line being crossed, when superstar photographer Rex Harper (Tim Sizemore) starts snapping away at Bo's son during the kid's soccer match. A polite request from star to photographer to leave the kid out of it is ignored, and Bo punches Rex, unaware that three of Rex's fellow paparazzi are filming the incident from a nearby van.
Now, already by this time, the main problem with the story has unfolded. By everyone's account, including Bo's own interior dialogue during the opening credits, he is not a major star just yet. (The comparison I would use is that Bo is at that place Orlando Bloom was just before the first "Lord of the Rings" film opened. Known to some, but not yet a name actor.) Why does Rex go after Bo and his family with such vengeance? Why do Rex and his three compatriots only focus on this one minor star, when one brags to the others a picture of George Clooney peeing in the woods got him over a hundred thousand dollars? Perhaps these plot points are a major annoyance to someone like myself, having spent time working with a photojournalist friend at events like the Oscars and the Emmys, because I know that most (if not all) American photojournalists are not as rabid at these four men are made out to be. When their Bo stalking leads to a major accident which kills another driver and puts Bo's wife and son in the hospital, the paparazzi, in a nod to the accident which killed Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, they all grab their cameras and start taking pictures of the mangled car and unconscious passengers, only calling for an ambulance after they've gotten some good snaps. With his wife in surgery and his son in a coma, Bo has little to do but fume, continue with the shooting of the sequel to his just-released film and attend court-appointed anger management sessions, stemming from the incident with Rex in the soccer park. But when a freak encounter with one of the paparazzi leaves Bo in a crisis of conscience, things soon become clear to the actor on how to deal with the situation he now finds himself in.
The rest of the film concerns a lame cat and mouse game between Rex, Bo and a police detective (Dennis Farina) who not only is investigating the crash which injured Bo's family but the mounting death toll of the paparazzi who were at the scene of the accident. Not that it really matters much, because this film is little more than a twenty million dollar budgeted revenge fantasy of one of the biggest superstars in the world, expanded to digital stereo, anamorphic widescreen glory. But we the audience don't care, as there is not a single moment in the film which rings true. The good guy is good and the bad guy is bad. The wife and kid are cute, and they are the ones who needlessly suffer the most, because they are not needed for the story outside of being fuel for the revenge fantasy fire. The bad guy's posse only exists to die one by one, and pad out the flimsy revenge fantasy's absurdly short running time (a mere 85 minutes, including opening and closing credits). Props are unnecessarily introduced in order for certain characters to find them at just the right time, even though the dots were already pretty easy to connect on their own, while most supporting characters only exist to "logically" get one of the two main characters from their current scene to their next scene.
"Paparazzi" is a jumbled mess, and it would be too easy to get cynical and blame it all on the first-time director, a one-time hair stylist on the first three "Lethal Weapon" movies, and the first-time screenwriter, a former wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks. In truth, the film is a mess from all angles. The cinematography, music, sound effects and editing often induce headaches more than excitement, and the talented cast, which also includes indie film darling Robin Tunney as Bo's wife, know they're not in the best movie for their careers and bring their abilities down several notches to meet the material at its own level.
My rating: D