When a teenage skateboarder named Alex (Gabe Nevins) accidentally kills a man, he barely registers any emotion. A child of moderate privilege, Alex is almost as much of a zombie as anything George A. Romero has ever conjured up, only less appealing.
"Paranoid Park" is a grim, tedious and ultimately empty film from icon Gus Van Sant. Van Sant loves Alex; the camera barely leaves his angelic face, while the rest of the world is either blurred or blocked out entirely.
One Saturday night alone, Alex heads off to "skate with the hardcore freaks" in Paranoid Park. He joins a master skateboarder for a quick ride on a freight train to score some beer. A security guard pursues the boys, and Alex takes a whack at the guy with his board, accidentally sending him into the path of a train.
"Paranoid Park" is gorgeous but vacant. Every frame is a sumptuous feast of color and slo-mo. This is the world as Alex sees it -- disjointed, distant, empty, each adult a ghostly blur. But remove this veneer and Alex is revealed to be a cipher. Who is he? Why should we care for him more than the man who was cut in half on the tracks?
Other troubles abound. Van Sant has never been a great director of women, and here he's reduced the three female characters to caricatures, from the passive-aggressive mother to the shrill cheerleading girlfriend to the punk Angel, utterly devoid of personality. Other, less arty films have said volumes more about teenagers, from "Rebel Without a Cause" to the latest "Harry Potter." (Rated R.)