Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 12, 2019)
A new film in the driving genre, Trading Paint heads to the world of dirt racing. Sam Munroe (John Travolta) earned success as a racer and he now acts as crew chief for his son Cam (Toby Sebastian).
However, they struggle, largely due to poor funding, and eventually they split up, as Cam agrees to drive for a competitor. Upset with this decision, Sam gets back behind the wheel and finds himself in competition against his son.
Serious question: has there ever been a really good drama related to professional auto racing? Sure, you can find plenty of notable movies that involve driving, but when it comes to flicks that deal with actual racing, I come up blank.
I enjoyed 2006’s Cars and Talladega Nights, but both embrace comedy. Maybe someone else can come up with a quality drama related to this topic, but I can’t.
Does Paint change this situation? God no – it offers a thoroughly cliché and silly stab at car-based drama.
Paint enjoys a perfect zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes, though based on a mere 11 reviews. On one hand, this seems harsh, as zero percent seems to connote an unwatchable classic of poor filmmaking, and Paint never becomes that awful.
On the other hand, for Paint to rise above zero percent, it’d need to earn a good review, and I find that tough to fathom. While it might not give us a horrific cinematic enterprise, it sure doesn’t do anything to make it enjoyable.
At 87 minutes, Paint barely qualifies as a feature film, especially because it rushes through characters and circumstances in a hurried manner. The semi-Biblical nature of the father vs. son tale comes packed with potential drama, but the movie doesn’t seem interested in these themes beyond the most basic clichés.
Paint barely makes any attempts to develop its characters. Sam and Cam come with the most basic backstories and never change or grow much along the way.
The actors fail to flesh out the roles as well. Saddled with a corn pone accent and another in a long line of bad wigs, Travolta over-emotes his way through the lead part, and Sebastian barely shows a pulse as the prodigal son.
Perhaps Paint would muster some enthusiasm if it created exciting race scenes, but the filmmakers do nothing to succeed in that domain. Oddly, they shoot most of the driving in close-ups, so we never get a sense of the thrills or danger involved in the action.
I suspect the film’s low budget impacted these sequences. I get the impression the production couldn’t afford more than five cars at a time, so they needed to shoot around their lack of vehicles.
This doesn’t work, and the budget also means that the “big race” comes with nearly empty stands in the background. I guess the producers couldn’t afford any kind of CG patrons – or maybe they just didn’t care.
All these factors make Paint a downright boring movie. Between its one-dimensional characters and its lackluster stabs at racing scenes, the film falls flat.