From the TV show Spaced to the movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have rapidly proved themselves to be one of the great modern double acts of comedy, but, somewhat surprisingly, Paul is their first fully developed writing collaboration.
In this highly entertaining comedy/sci-fi adventure, Pegg & Frost play Graeme & Clive, two British sci-fi geeks who experience a little more than they bargained for during a trip to the USA. Following a visit to the San Diego Comic Con, the two embark on a road trip through America's UFO heartland where they have a close encounter with wisecracking alien visitor Paul, on the run from the Men in Black. A fumbling plan is hatched to evade the agents and return the little green man to his mothership.
Formed from an idea Pegg & Frost had on the set of Shaun of the Dead, Paul is an unashamed love letter to Steven Spielberg (who gets an inspired cameo) and science fiction. The film is littered with references to ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek, Star Wars and many other genre movies. If you spot them all, you're a bigger geek than I am! Occasionally, the references feel forced (excuse the pun), but on the whole they sit fairly naturally in the script. Cleverly, though the film could so easily have been aimed solely at a niche audience of sci-fi fans, Pegg & Frost ensure there's an equal amount of broader comedy so not to alienate (excuse the pun, again) a more mainstream audience. Indeed, the comedy in Paul is somewhat different than in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, so fans of those movies shouldn't go into this one expecting more of the same. The style of the movie is very different from those films too, due to the fact that Pegg & Frost's usual collaborator, Edgar Wright, isn't behind the camera on this one; that position is filled by Greg Mottola, director of the hit comedy Superbad. Mottola's style is a good fit for the material. He mixes the solid, unflashy direction of an indie comedy with some very Spielbergian framing and zooming, which gives sections of the film a warm, comforting feel of a 1980's movie. However, I do wonder what this film could've been like shot with Wright's trademark frenetic pacing and editing. On occasion, Paul feels a little bit safe and I think Wright could've given it a bit more punch.
I have to admit, about 15 minutes into this film, I was afraid I was going to be watching a bit of a dud. The opening section of the film is very mediocre. The gags feel tired and the pacing is very slow. Part of the problem is that both Pegg & Frost are playing characters of a similar type and the usual character dynamic the pair have on-screen is worryingly absent. However, as soon as Paul appears, the movie really kicks into gear and it becomes clear that the alien is designed to be a foil to Pegg & Frost. That provides the spark for the comedy to really start firing.
Of course, if you're going to name your film after a computer generated alien central character, you'd better be damn sure that character works. The whole film really hinges on Paul being likable and, more importantly, believable. Thankfully, they manage to pull it off. Paul is one of the best CGI characters since Gollum. The animators have done a superb job of giving Paul a huge range of expression, yet they always keep things restrained and naturalistic, which makes Paul seem more...dare I say it... human.
I had reservations when I heard Seth Rogan was voicing Paul, but I have to say, he delivers a perfectly judged vocal performance. He gives Paul a real warmth and tenderness as well as being extremely funny. The rest of the performances in the film are great too. Pegg & Frost are as good as always and it's nice to see that they didn't write this film as purely a vehicle for their own comedic talents. Generously, they give each character some great material. Kristen Wiig gets some good lines in her role as Ruth, a one-eyed devout Christian (or "God bothering cyclops" as Paul calls her) who gets a whole new perspective on life thanks to the alien. Joe Lo Truglio, Bill Hader and Jason Bateman play off each other well as Men in Black agents O'Reilly, Haggard and Zoil. Sigourney Weaver isn't seen for much of the film, but her appearance in the climax of the movie is a treat. And, before you ask, yes, there's an Aliens gag.
One of the things I liked about Paul is that it doesn't try too hard. It feels very genuine, honest and uncynical, which is refreshing for a big budget comedy. You really get a sense that Pegg & Frost wrote this one from the heart and have a real love for the material they reference and pay homage to.
Sharp, witty, clever, rude, surprisingly touching and highly amusing, Paul is well worth your time. Although, I feel this one isn't for everybody. While it does try to include enough comedic material and interest for a wide audience, in truth it will be best appreciated by those who are already familiar with the sci-fi genre. If you know what a Dilithium Crystal is, which alien likes Reese's Pieces and who made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, then this one's for you.
Oh, and if you do go see this, be sure to stick around for the end credits.
Nerds, wizards, people in the craft of war and the rest of the reality inept…May I introduce you to Paul? I had my reservations about this movie, but by the end I was onboard. Paul isn’t complicated; a pair of Brits on holiday at Comic-Con who set out to see the unconventional sights the US has to offer stumble upon a nerds wet dream, a real life alien in need of help. The film stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Seth Rogen who brings to life the sarcastic but … more
Hollywood had three alien invasions hit theaters this month, each dramatically different films. Disney's Mars Needs Moms is a family friendly animation, Battle:LA is an action heavy flick with an Independence Day meets Cloverfield feel, but it is Paul that clearly brings the house down with an amazing balance of story, comedy and geek-tastic references. Although the box office might rank Battle: LA higher than Paul, I would not judge the films in that order. I think Paul is … more
It's the new super-sexy Express Review format that celebrates A.D.D. Paul is the worst comedy of 2011, if not the worst film, period. I didn't fall for the "two British guys travelling must be gay" gag the first time or even the twentieth time it was used. Making the Baptists look dumb didn't quite do it for me either. I did smile once when I remembered I still had a frozen pizza I hadn't eaten. The casting department miscast Seth Rogen as the voice of the … more
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) reunite for the comedy adventure Paul as two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage takes them to America's UFO heartland. While there, they accidentally meet an alien who brings them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever. For the past 60 years, an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. For reasons unknown, the space-traveling smart ass decides to escape the compound and hop on the first vehicle out of town-a rented RV containing Earthlings Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost). Chased by federal agents and the fanatical father of a young woman that they accidentally kidnap, Graeme and Clive hatch a fumbling escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship. And as two nerds struggle to help, one little green man might just take his fellow outcasts from misfits to intergalactic heroes...