Shaun of the Dead – brilliant. Hot Fuzz – amazeballs. ‘Paul‘, the third collaboration between the two best friends Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is E.T. gone comedy. A lewd, crude, good mood, action packed bromance. A geek-friendly affair. At times, I laughed so hard my anal probe fell out.
Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are two British sci-fi geeks who take a pilgrimage from San Diego Comic-Con to the Southwest and all the famous UFO sites. On the road they encounter a real-life alien, Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). Graeme, Clive and Paul quickly have to go on the run from government agents (Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio) as they help Paul, but end up kidnapping a fundamentalist Christian, Ruth (Kristen Wiig), on the way.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost certainly have a great working relationship since their days on ‘Spaced’ (UK comedy series that launched their careers). But, ‘Paul’ is their biggest project without long-time director Edgar Wright at their side and the film does slightly suffer because of it. What made Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz so great was that they took a genre like Zombies or Buddy Cop action thriller and created parodies that lampooned exactly what was wrong and so lovable about their genres. In the process, they ended up creating films that could stand alongside the very films they were parodying. “Paul” was intended to unfold in this same manner, but unfortunately ran a bit flat. A rudimentary story, shameless Spielberg worship and barely explored characters and themes does cause a bit of contextual misfire. Regardless, it doesn’t take anything away from the entertainment factor of the film.
Though feeling a little held back this time around, Frost and Pegg still have that comfortable comic chemistry, summing up UK geek culture perfectly. Their bromance was a bit cliched, but it still touches home. Seth Rogen as Paul the alien just nailed it. He’s such a vulgar and crude alien, yet endearing and likable at the same time. I defy anyone to dislike him. Notably, Paul’s CGI body was impressive. It was easy to believe that he was another actor in the scenes. Jason Bateman is in top form, stalwart and dry as always. The intentions of his agent on-the-hunt character take a unexpected, but pleasant twist. The scenes involving Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio were just as great. An unfortunate alien ball groping had me ROFL. Kristen Wiig on the other hand appeared to deploy none of her comedic talents whatsoever beyond uttering profanities. Regardless, my inner twelve year old couldn’t avoid laughing at her vulgarity. A mixed response might be met when Paul challenges her characters Christian beliefs about the universe -a reoccurring poke at Creationism Vs. Darwinism. Jebus freaks will tell it on the mountain, but for everyone else it’s amusing as hell.
Paul is a sci-fi comedy. At times, the jokes can feel a little self indulgent; inside jokes that would probably confuse most and only careful listeners can interpret the references to the scifi genre (Alien, ET, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, Star Wars, Aliens, Predator, and Mac and Me.) On the other hand, as a nerd (we say nerd around here. Geeks eat the heads off chickens. Look it up.) this is where the humor probed so far it tickled my funny bone. Minor complaint on two tiresome running ‘gags’, namely a comic cover featuring an alien with three tits, and people mistaking the titular characters for being gay; because they are two men traveling together in an RV. Funny scenes such as Paul stating that he gets his weed from the US Military, which is so strong that it killed Bob Dylan; “But he’s not dead”. Paul answers “Isn’t he?” more than make up for it.
The flick certainly has it’s faults. Weak script, excessive potty humor, an over abundance of geek references (not to my complaint though), cliched and unexplored characterization…etc. But you know what? You’ll have too much fun to care. If you enjoyed Superbad, Pineapple Express, Shaun of the Dead, or Hot Fuzz, then Paul is a must see.
Three tits, spaceman balls and kidnapped Christians… what more do you want??