Paul (2011)

Fresh from their long awaited geekgasm at the hands of Comic-Con, British tourists Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) round off their American vacation with a road-trip around the country’s most famed UFO hotspots. Re-enacting their favourite scenes from Star Trek and unintentionally annoying the local hillbillies, the travellers are driven off-course when they pick up an Extra Terrestrial hitch-hiker named Paul. On the run from everybody (literally), Graeme and Clive must go on their own sci-fi adventure if they are ever going to help alien Paul phone home and catch a bit of the action they’ve been reading about all these years.

Rather than twiddle their thumbs as common collaborator Edgar Wright went off to make Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost endeavoured to write a love letter to Steven Spielberg in return for being cast in the legendary directors upcoming Tintin adaptation – even going as far as completing the film’s cross-country road trip themselves for inspiration. In this respect they have succeeded entirely, the film is a veritable smorgasbord of homages and obscure references to various geekdoms to deliriously giggle-worthy effect. But Paul is by no means the laugh-a-minute joyride I (and I am guessing you) were expecting as the lights went down and the title card flashed up, however, as a series of failings rob the film of greatness.

Paul‘s biggest problem is its focus – or resolute lack thereof, as the plot meanders gracelessly and the tone all but explodes in a disappointingly inconsequential attempt to be everything to everyone. While little references provoke knowing smiles, a much less enchanting portion of the comedy is unashamedly broad, a saddening blend of American stereotypes and bog-standard Seth Rogen stoner shtick that attempts to poke fun at Christianity with all the finesse of one of Michael Moore’s megaphones. As our heroes trail an ever expanding number of antagonists, stopping only to cavort with conveniently placed cameos and smoke weed, there is very little sense that the plot is going anywhere, other than from A is for Apple to B is for Banana. Unlike previous collaborations Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the plot may go nowhere but the characters don’t either.

That is not to say that Paul is not entertaining. It is. And then some. It is just not as riotous as the premise appears to promise. Essentially a bromantic buddy-comedy road movie genre picture spoof, the potential for Paul is virtually endless, as the titular alien quickly proves the best -and most sympathetic – character Seth Rogen has ever played (as he did not, it turns out, voice Krumm in Aah! Real Monsters). Jane Lynch and Sigourney Weaver are wasted – as the immortal lampoon “get away from her, you bitch!” is squandered on the tongue of a throwaway last act character – and the running time is padded with smaltzy romance and contrived near-misses.

That said, Paul is still an absolute pleasure, made by geeks for geeks and gloriously self-indulgent in the process. Genuinely impressive CGI stands testament to the respect and good-will Pegg and Frost have built up during their time in the states, the movie’s Hollywood gloss outshadowing the majority of Britain’s necessarily less well rendered special effects and science fiction. I found myself lost in the character’s eyes, not only as he brought birds back to life and turned invisible, but also as he stood motionless and emoted with utter conviction.

Where Paul truly comes to life, however, is in its homages. Everything from Star Trek to Alien – Star Wars to E.T. – is honoured and lampooned, Paul‘s resident alien delightfully irreverent to humankind’s depiction of extra terrestrial life. Fulfilling their respects to the genre, Paul could unfortunately been a far more fulfilling experience with a few more drafts, a better controlled momentum and a little more originality.


About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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