Paperboys is an exploration of paperboys and their place in American culture. At least that is what the tag line on the cover of the DVD asks us to believe. If you ask me, Mike Mill's Paperboys is a great looking and fascinating beginning to another documentary that we will never see. He knows how to hook us in and keep us watching, but then we are cut off just when things start to get interesting.
Most of the film consists of footage of the boys on their paper routes, accompanied by a rap music soundtrack, which seems to be the genre of choice for these budding entrepreneurs. But what is lacking in the piece is the very thing that Mills wants to compare his subjects to: history. There is no archival footage or even reminiscence of the good old days of tossing papers to local neighbors. He asks the kids a couple of questions like "Do you think there will be paperboys in the future?" but what does that really tell us? Not much. Other than a great looking vignette, there is not much to get from Paperboys. But I hear the filmmaker does a hell of a music video.
The extras on the DVD include many previews of other offerings from Palm Pictures as well as a 1997 documentary short from Mike Mills titled Deformer. Deformer is a look at the life of former top-ranking skateboarder Ed Templeton's leap into the art world. Instead of paperboys set to music, we have naked Ed and naked Ed's naked girlfriend set to music, as well as some cool skateboard tricks. There is a little more substance in the 17-minute glimpse into Templeton's life. He narrates the piece with dark, personal musings complete with feelings of inadequacy and fears of acceptance. Add to that a LOT of penis shots and you get the idea in a nutshell. I probably would have enjoyed Deformer more than Paperboys in terms of getting the complete story of the subject at hand if it weren't so darn creepy.