Paradise, the dull and offputting directorial debut of Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult), feels like a practice run for a real movie. Julianne Hough stars as Lamb, a young woman raised in an ultrareligious small town who loses faith in God after she’s involved in a plane crash that leaves two-thirds of her body horribly scarred (but not her face, natch).
To the horror of her parents (Nick Offerman and Holly Hunter, both utterly wasted here), Lamb renounces the church at Sunday morning mass and even threatens to vote Democratic in the next election. Helped by a fat settlement paid by the airline, she hops a plane to Las Vegas, where she books herself a posh suite and decides to explore worldly pleasures and catch up on what she has been missing out on all these years.
As it turns out, she didn’t miss much. Paradise co-stars Russell Brand as a bartender who takes a protective shine to Lamb and Octavia Spencer as a lounge singer who complains about “magical Negroes” in movies — African-American supporting characters whose sole purpose is to help white protagonists find their way. But then that’s exactly the role Spencer plays here, and Paradise is so lumpen and misguided, it’s hard to tell if Cody is even in on the joke.
Cast: Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Holly Hunter.
Writer-director: Diablo Cody.
Producer: Mason Novick.
An RLJ/Image Entertainment release. Running time: 87 minutes. Vulgar language, adult themes. Opens Friday Oct. 18 in Miami-Dade only: Aventura.