Paul is a movie about sci-fi geeks… created by sci-fi geeks… for sci-fi geeks. If any movie knows its audience, this is it. Written by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Paul, much like the pair’s previous work together, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, is a love letter to the genre that spawned it.
From start to finish, this movie throws more movie references at you than I could keep track of. At times I found myself laughing at certain lines of dialogue and having that horrible realization that in a theater full of people, I may be one of the few persons in attendance who are catching the Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. homages. Some were wonderfully obvious… but others had a fantastic subtlety to them. And honestly, I’m terrified about what that means about me…
The movie opens with friends Graeme (Pegg… being very meta seeing how he is Montgomery Scott in the new Star Trek films) and Clive (Frost) attending Comic Con on the trip of a lifetime… from the UK to the vast and rich alien landscape that is the American southwest! Area 51… the black mailbox… Roswell… all the geekiest of vacation destinations. Within the first five minutes we are painted a picture of these two friends that is both believable and not cartoonish… Clive the science fiction comic book author and Graeme his collaborator and artist. After causing a problem or two with a pair of rednecks in a diner by being… uhhhhh… not from there and therefore unrecognizable to the camo wearing good ol’ boys, the pair take off in their rented RV and find themselves witness to a bizarre traffic accident… and face to face with an actual alien… Paul (the voice and attitude of Seth Rogen).
After a few “getting to know you” moments and the introduction of the black car driving government agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) and the evangelical Ruth (Kristen Wiig) the chase is on. On one hand, a great deal of this story is somewhat rote… alien escapes, gets help from big hearted humans, chased down by the government… but this movie manages to extract laughs by being crass, juvenile and vulgar… and at the same time find a way to be surprisingly tender and warm in places I least expected.
Director Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland) mixes up incessant dick jokes with genuine emotion. Even at moments that I thought may get a bit treacly didn’t drag the pace down or detract from the humor… and at times the schtick risked going overboard (you know… Rogen), everyone involved pulled back just enough to make it work. Rounding out the great cast are Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, Jeffery Tambor and Blythe Danner… even a brief voice cameo from Steven Spielberg. No nerd stone was left unturned…
This is the first screenplay for Pegg and Frost as a duo… and the first for the pair without longtime director Edgar Wright (he was busy with Scott Pilgrim. First it was an homage to zombie and horror tropes… then the 80’s action cop movies… and now it time to pray to the alter of sci-fi. From a collection of Leia’s in her metal bikini to Clive’s interesting penchant for Ewoks… these men love their subject.
Paul the alien is rude, obnoxious and incredibly lovable… I think I can say the same for Paul the movie. If the mention that Sigourney Weaver appears in this had any effect on you… or you desire to see a county western band playing the cantina song in a bar… then this is a movie for you.
Setting phaser to faint,
Cornelius J. Blahg