Review by Jack Foley
HAVING paid homage to zombie movies (Shaun of the Dead) and the buddy cop action genre (Hot Fuzz) Simon Pegg and Nick Frost now turn their attention to sci-fi in alien comedy Paul.
But while their first two films were often inspired, this latest is a little more hit and miss.
Remaining true to form, Pegg and Frost play nerdy best friends [named Graeme and Clive] who find themselves at the centre of an amazing adventure: on this occasion taking an extra terrestrial on a road trip.
The alien in question, Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen, has flagged them down while they’re mid journey from Comic-Con to America’s greatest UFO haunts and is also being pursued by the various government figures who have sought to keep him secret all these years while mining him for information.
The ensuing action adventure contains elements of bro-mance, road trip comedy and action and sci-fi and is packed with movie in-joke references and cool supporting players.
But somehow it doesn’t quite come together as satisfyingly as the duo’s previous work.
On the plus side, Paul boasts a cool American indie director who more than compensates for the absence of Edgar Wright.
Greg Mottola, of Superbad and Adventureland fame, is no slouch in the comedy stakes and knows how to handle a starry ensemble, while proving equally adept in the special effects department.
And there’s also great support from a veritable who’s who of US comedy greats, from Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio, as bumbling Feds, to Jason Bateman, as a deadpan man in black and Kristen Wiig, as a devout Christian who finds her belief system rocked to its core.
There’s also a fleeting appearance from Glee‘s Jane Lynch, Blythe Danner and sci-fi icon Sigourney Weaver, all of whom deliver the goods.
The CGI Paul also convinces as a credible character in his own right and benefits from Rogen’s gravel throated, witty delivery.
While the innumerable pop culture references are largely spot on, taking in everything from Steven Spielberg’s ET and Close Encounters to the Alien franchise and Star Wars.
But while there is plenty that works, Paul sometimes feels underwhelming and more than a little self-indulgent, while the nerdy element surrounding the Pegg-Frost partnership is showing signs of wear and tear.
The two actors remain endearing enough to carry a movie and Paul is clearly a love letter to the ‘geeks’ that have helped transform them into global mega-stars. But they need to freshen things up a bit as they move forward.
Some of the humour, too, feels forced and obvious, especially early on while setting the scene, while the ‘science versus religion’ debate that takes place is, perhaps, a little overcooked and likely to make some viewers sit uncomfortably – not that it’ll offend anyone but the most ardent Creationist!
Also, by ensuring that Paul is – at heart – a geek-fest, Pegg and Frost run the risk of ‘alienating’ the mainstream in some places with a lot of references that may well fly over some people’s heads.
You could also argue that the film would have benefited from more of Bateman, Hader and Lo Truglio than some of the other, less colourful supporting players. While attempts to marry English comedy values with broader US ones perhaps blunt the film’s edge.
But that said, Paul still manages to entertain and make you laugh in plenty of places… meaning that while you may not depart the cinema exactly loving the alien, you’ll still have enjoyed hitching a ride.
Running time: 104mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 13, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Simon Pegg and Nick Frost interview
- Sigourney Weaver interview
- Jason Bateman interview
- Greg Mottola interview
- Kristen Wiig interview
- Joe Lo Truglio interview
- Paul Photo Gallery