Starring (voices): Cindy Robinson, Yuri Lowenthal, Brian Beacock, Doug Erholtz, Michael Forest, David Lodge, Paul St. Peter
Rated R for Violent and Sexual Images
I've noticed that when I dream, or at least when I remember them, they make total sense only in the moment. After I wake up, I'm left wondering whether my subconscious was on some sort of illegal drug while I was asleep. Satoshi Kon, the director of the terminally bland "Tokyo Godfathers" (there's a visual reference to his earlier film), has apparently tried to replicate this in a film. While I applaud his attempt, there's no denying that "Paprika" is an utter failure.
This is a really bad movie. It's so bad that for 95% of it, the storyline is so incoherent that if you set the film on shuffle, it wouldn't make any noticeable difference. There are some nice visuals and some offbeat moments to be found here, but they don't offset the frustration. Or the boredom.
"Paprika" is so scrambled that I can't even begin to tell you the plot. Or the characters. Both seem to change with every line. What I could piece together is that a super fat scientist has created something called the "D.C. Mini," which records your dreams and lets you watch them when you're awake. I think you can also watch and enter into other people's dreams, but I'm not sure. Apparently, there's some criminal who is using this device for nefarious purposes and is wandering into other people's dreams and causing them to go crazy and die. Or go into comas. I'm not really sure.
The film takes elements of "The Matrix," "eXistenZ," "Strange Days," and most noticeably, "Inception" (to be fair to Kon, Nolan's film came out later), and stirs them up into a total mess. By their nature, movies about dreams and different realities are tough to pull off. Especially when you're trying to make the audience wonder what is real. But Kon forgets to establish a set of rules of what can and cannot happen. Without it, the film will appear as if it is making itself up as it goes along, which is what happens here. There's no reason this idea couldn't have worked; Nolan proved that with "Inception."
Kon has tried to do something difficult, and I give him points for trying. He throws everything he can at us to make us question everything, such as what is real and if a person is in fact that person (people seem to interchange with each other on a frequent basis). At one point a character says that he can manipulate the world however he wants. That's all fine and good, as long as the film's setting is on a solid foundation. But that doesn't happen. There's no clear set-up of this world, so instead of intriguing us, "Paprika" merely frustrates.
I can't give "Paprika" a 0/4 because despite everything, it's not as painful to watch as some movies I've seen (I thought of "Ben & Arthur" and "Soul Plane" while watching this movie, and immediately recognized that this is far less painful of an experience). So I'll give "Paprika" one half for its audaciousness and one half for some cool visuals. That adds up to a 1/4. Still not worth your time, but it's above painful.