The tenacious teenage protagonist of the low-key comedy “Paulie Go!” may recall memories of another Paulie played by Michael Cera in ‘Juno’. Paulie Go (Ethan Dizon) is tighter than Cera’s Paulie Bleeker, but Jason Reitman’s indie film is a suitable touchstone for this humble coming-of-age tale, which follows a technical prodigy after a saga amid folk music, road-trip montages and spirited dialogue. mission to access a competitive machine learning program.
Dweeby and friendless but gifted in the sciences, Paulie, who is graduating early from high school, sets his sights on a reclusive professor’s robotics lab. Even a rejected application can’t stop him: In the opening scenes, Paulie steals his uncle’s van and drives to Minnesota, hoping to personally prove his expertise to the professor. There, in a lakeside hamlet, Paulie meets Avery (Madison Wolfe), a young fishing enthusiast who agrees to be Paulie’s local escort.
Directed by Andrew Nackman in his feature film debut “Paulie Go!” unabashedly aspires to the sentimental whimsy that once swept film festivals, and certain moments — including a self-consciously awkward dance scene — seem close to quotes from dozens of offbeat movies that preceded it. Even in an easy affair, such reprocessed sweetness can give you a toothache. The story’s greatest strength is the clever twist that awaits Paulie and Avery towards the end of their adventure, adding a surprising sci-fi element to an otherwise standard coming-of-age exercise.
Not judged. Running time: 1 hour 26 minutes. Rent or buy on Amazon, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.