I’ll be honest: I didn’t expect much from the first film in the third season of Netflix’s Untold docuseries. Jake Paul the Problem Child didn’t seem to be up my alley. But once the film began to focus on Paul’s boxing career, it became far more entertaining, engaging, and insightful to me.
First, here’s the synopsis of Jake Paul the Problem Child from Netflix.
At 26, is Jake Paul the boxing world’s new savior or a “delusional” promoter who packs more punch in his marketing skills than in his right hand? It depends on whom you ask in UNTOLD: Jake Paul the Problem Child, an unflinching deep dive into how a wide-eyed kid from Ohio morphed from Internet sensation to most polarizing man in sports. For every high-profile critic (UFC president Dana White), there’s another supporter in his corner (former professional boxer Mike Tyson). In 2013, Jake and his older brother, Logan, lit up social media with pranks and antics posted first to Vine and then a YouTube channel that racked up millions of views. The brothers parlayed their online success into lucrative side hustles, with Jake releasing music and landing a role on a Disney Channel show (Bizaardvark). As their notoriety grew, so did tensions between the once-close siblings. When Jake’s real-life controversies nearly ruined his career, he got a second chance as a boxer who shocked skeptics as he knocked out one opponent after another. Built on gripping interviews with the Paul brothers – along with their parents, fans, fellow boxers, and the skeptical old guard – the film culminates with a nail-biting match that will prove if Jake has what it takes to rule his new kingdom.
The film, directed by Andrew Renzi (of Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? fame) begins by chronicling Paul’s rise to online stardom. While this was an essential part of the film to explain Paul’s fame and why he’s such a polarizing figure, it didn’t capture much of my attention. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes (several times) as some of the Vine and YouTube highlights from Paul and his brother Logan were played. I’m not the target market for their digital channels.
Jake Paul the Problem Child takes a turn when Paul’s misdeeds and the dimming of his star are spotlighted. Paul and his family don’t whitewash his numerous controversies and potential legal or criminal trouble, which was welcomed. This edition of Untold easily could have not mentioned Paul’s lowlights, so Renzi deserves credit for not shying away from those topics.
When Paul’s boxing career launches, the film truly gets interesting. Jake Paul the Problem Child takes an interesting look at the marketing tactics Paul and his team used to select and hype future fights, and it’s a clinic on how to promote a fight. Paul is such a polarizing figure and it’s hard for someone not to have an opinion about him. This plays out in clips from various sports and news talk shows, featuring all sorts of assorted takes of various heat levels about Paul as a boxer, his fight selection, his motives, and so on.
Interviews with people in Paul’s boxing camp, including coaches, are illuminating. They show Paul’s dedication to boxing, and while the hype and promotion train is understandably out of control, Paul is at least devoted to improving as a fighter.
While Paul’s strong comments in support of an MMA fighters union are touched on, there isn’t enough focus on them for me. Is he serious about his efforts? How are they progressing? Does he mean what he says, or is he just trying to get under UFC President Dana White’s skin? We could have gotten more insight, on this topic which would have been welcomed.
My least favorite part of Jake Paul the Problem Child didn’t come up often, but when it did, it took me out of the film. Every so often, we get random clips of YouTubers reacting to something Paul did in his career. I didn’t need to see a handful of videos of people freaking out about Paul knocking out Tyron Woodley. It was a jaw-dropping moment, and showing clips of people yelling, jumping around, or standing around with their jaws dropped didn’t add any helpful context. It seemed excessive.
Overall, Jake Paul the Problem Child exceeded my expectations. I didn’t go into this season of Untold’s debut episode too optimistic, but came away pleasantly surprised. If you’re not a Paul fan, you can skip it, but if you’re even the slightest bit curious about his boxing journey and the massive pay-per-view buys his fights are generated, I’d give this a watch.