Directed by: Diablo Cody
Starring: Julianne Hough, Octavia Spencer, Russell Brand, Holly Hunter, Nick Offerman
Running time: 90 Minutes , Rated PG-13, In Theaters October 18th
21 year old Lamb Mannerheim (Julianne Hough) was horribly burned in a plane crash, and is struggling with her recovery. Her parents (Holly Hunter & Nick Offerman) expect her to make a huge donation to her church after receiving a handsome lawsuit payout, to which she surprises everyone by telling the parish she no longer believes in God. She announces she’s leaving her sheltered life in Montana and flies to Las Vegas where she hopes to commit as many sins she can think of. There she meets a friendly British bartender named William (Brand) and surly lounge singer Loray (Spencer) who take her under their wings to make sure she doesn’t go too far or too fast.
The Positive: It’s a cute, candy coated story about self discovery and learning not to feel sorry for yourself because someone else always has it worse. I did like the bit with Octavia Spencer’s character proclaiming herself as the “Magical Negro.” That was the only part where I actually laughed out loud. I liked how her character refused to sing Aretha and preferred the more somber Radiohead. Russell Brand is a nice guy character (very similar to his character in Bedtime Stories) which I feel suits him, but he’s so good at playing the lecherous characters too. When Lamb throws herself at William, it’s endearing how he puts on the brakes.
The Negative: I was expecting something completely different coming from Diablo Cody and I was quite disappointed. I did like how she wrote some ridiculous mannerisms of the uber religious, however some parts are just over-kill silly, like bringing a set of dishes to Vegas so you don’t catch A.I.D.S. Julianne Hough was so cute and perky, even when she’s supposed to be suffering from her horrible burns and bleeding skin grafts. Nick Offerman and Holly Hunter are basically names on the poster because their talents were sadly underutilized.
I’m hoping Diablo Cody isn’t going the way of Eddie Murphy by playing it safe after having kids. Paradise plays out like one of my devoutly religious, smug relatives trying to make up a story about walking the line of sin and how they find their way, which you know it utter b.s. but you smile and politely wait until they finish. There’s subtle hints that the Diablo we fell in love with is still there somewhere and hope she gets her mojo back after this bland experiment.
Total Rating: C
Reviewed by: JM Willis