Movie Review: The John Green adaptation Paper Towns has a hole in its center

What do you call a middling movie that still has a share of grace notes? Paper Towns, based on an Edgar-winning YA novel by John Green (The Fault In Our Stars), soft-pedals the source material, leaving only a whiff of personality. Set in an Orlando subdivision, the film follows high school senior Quentin (Nat Wolff) as he and his buddies Bloody Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith) try to deduce a set of clues left behind by impossibly cool crush object Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne), who has disappeared for the nth time following a break-up-induced revenge spree. The Ws of aspiring-grown-up taste—Woody Guthrie, Wilco, Walt Whitman—become hints in a puzzle, and a marble notebook-ready metaphor involving cartographic copyright traps (the “paper towns” of the title) is tortured until it’s given up everything it’s got.

Despite its glimmers of self-awareness, Paper Towns works …

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