Paper Towns review from Variety.
The title of “Paper Towns” refers to a trick that cartographers use to keep their maps from being copied by competitors. But it also describes, in a less literal sense, that brand of suburban disillusionment where everything and everyone in life seems phony, stifling and two-dimensional — a condition to which some sensitive teenagers can be especially susceptible. If it’s authenticity these young adults seek, they could do far worse than this second film drawn from a John Green bestseller (after last year’s hit “The Fault in Our Stars”): It may not subvert every cliche of the high-school romance genre, but director Jake Schreier’s coming-of-age dramedy nonetheless pulses with moving and melancholy moments as it follows a 17-year-old boy who spends an unforgettable night with the girl of his dreams, then decides to pursue her when she suddenly leaves town the next day.
Athough it shares several producers, a writing team (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber) and an actor (Nat Wolff) with Josh Boone’s adaptation of “The Fault in Our Stars,” Schreier’s film seems unlikely to match its predecessor’s runaway commercial success ($307 million worldwide). Which is a bit of a shame, insofar as “Paper Towns” turns out to be the better movie — less tearjerking and more affecting, and populated by characters who are presented not as paragons of cancer-riddled virtue, but rather as flawed, ordinary young individuals who are touchingly vulnerable to the social pressures and sexual anxieties of contemporary teenage life. That’s true even of those who try to rise above (or sink below) it all, like Quentin Jacobson (Wolff), a high-school senior in Orlando, Fla., who has long since absorbed the perks of being a wallflower. He’s a good student, shy but not irredeemably awkward, and utterly disinterested in going to prom, unlike his two best friends, the smart, self-conscious Radar (Justice Smith) and the goofy, perpetually horny Ben (Austin Abrams).