Paradise Blu-ray Review
Six years ago, a stripper-turned-screenwriter won an Academy Award because her screenplay had more one-liners than the other nominees. Two years later, she wrote a movie starring Megan Fox that you might struggle to come up with the name of. Somewhere between then and now, she did some doctoring on a movie starring Cher and Christina Aguilera, as well as a horror remake nobody asked for. There was also the one that the studio duped people into seeing by plastering “JUNO” all over the ads. And now it was time for her to make her directorial debut.
PARADISE (also known as LAMB OF GOD, although I can’t recommend searching for it under either title) is directed by Diablo Cody, who has outlasted her 15 minutes by about, oh, 3.2 million of them. It follows Lamb Mannerhelm (Julianne Hough, who you may remember thought it was a good idea to don blackface for Halloween this year), who survived a plane crash and became something of a miracle in her bible-thumping hometown. “There is no God,” she tells a church full of family and friends, among them her mother (Holly Hunter, JACKIE) and father (Nick Offerman, NBC’s PARKS AND RECREATION). To add insult to insult, she declares, “In the next presidential election, I plan to vote Democrat.”
With her newfound outlook on life (and plenty of settlement money), Lamb heads to Las Vegas, where she plans to, well, do what people do in Vegas. It’s there she meets William (Russell Brand, ROCK OF AGES), a bartender who’s probably more caring than most found in Sin City, and Loray (Octavia Spencer, THE HELP), a lounge singer who incorporates Radiohead (and not Aretha Franklin) into her act.
The point of all of this seems to be for Cody to project the pent-up anti-religion feelings she apparently has. (She also makes time to muse on racism and rock ‘n’ roll, but she doesn’t get far there, either.) Why it all needed to be backed by a studio remains unclear. Maybe she ran out of pages in her diary?
But here it is anyway. The issues with the quality aren’t entirely in Cody’s direction, which can be described as nothing more than adequate. The problems really arise in the script and cast. Hough, who made her name on Dancing with the Stars, has no business headlining a movie that doesn’t also require her to sing and/or dance. She’s not necessarily a bad actress, but she’s not right for this material, no matter how thin it is. Spencer, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to realize that movies like this could land her in a post-Oscar rut.
Now, a brief note on the dialogue, which Cody is somewhat notorious for: While JUNO had a few sharp bits, PARADISE is just plain lazy and stupid. An example: Lamb plays a slot machine in a drinking establishment and asks, “What’s bar? Did I just pay a machine to tell me where I am?”
PARADISE is a fish-out-of-water story where you wouldn’t mind the fish being flushed down the crapper. It’s for those that, for some reason, think Diablo Cody is still in—and, I guess, those that want to see what Ron Swanson looks like without a mustache and with a horseshoe hairstyle.
PARADISE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition transfer is clean and detailed throughout, with fine textures in clothes and skin tones (especially Lamb’s scars), as well as noticeable sharpness in the neons.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The dialogue is clear, but it’s the many club and street scenes that boast the finer aspects of this transfer. Those sequences feature a range of music and ambiance that add to both the highs and lows of Las Vegas.
Commentary with writer/director Diablo Cody: While she tends to comment on what’s onscreen, Cody still delivers a track that covers a number of aspects regarding her directorial debut, from cast and characters to locations and deleted scenes.
Behind the Scenes is divided into four sections: Diablo Cody (4:45), Russell Brand (2:34), Julianne Hough (2:40), and Octavia Spencer (5:01).