Movie review: Paul
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi
Opens locally Friday, March 18th, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Seth Rogen (voice), Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader
Written by Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
Directed by Greg Motolla (Superbad, Adventureland)
I'll start very short and simply: If you are a fan of anything science-fiction released in the last 60 years, be it movies, TV, comic books, radio, or novels, by all means go see "Paul." For those on the fringe (no sci-fi pun intended), "Paul" still works as a clever, but overly absurd buddy comedy that appeals to the geek in all of us.
The Plot. Basically you have Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an alien from another planet, who encounters two British comic-book geeks who happen to be on a sight-seeing trip across the U.S. to see all of the major "alien encounter" sites such as Area 51. They need to escort Paul to a site where his alien ship is due to pick him up and return him to his alien world.
Along the way they run into a cast of characters who all get equal screen time to add their unique humor into the mix. Kristen Wiig is a holier-than-thou woman who's faith is rattled upon meeting Paul, who destroys her theory of evolution. To say she has newfound "freedom" is a big understatement. Then there's the always great Jason Bateman as an FBI operative tracking the alien, along with 2 buffoon officers played by Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader and Reno 911 alum Jo Lo Truglio. Finally, throw in a series of very funny cameos from the likes of Jeffrey Tambor, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, and even Steven Spielberg, and it makes for one of the funniest films I've seen in quite a while.
On the Right Trek. Anybody "too cool" to embrace science fiction or fantasy may scoff at Paul in the same way that people avoid "Star Trek"...they're not really concerned what it's really even about, just not wanting to be associated with the rabid fan base who dress up like Klingons or Vulcans. The movie contains tons...and I mean more than I can count or that I even fully got...of references to all realms of the sci-fi genre. There were more references to Star Trek and Star Wars (probably since these are the more mainstream and relatable jokes that people would get), but we also get stuff ranging from Flash Gordon, to The X Files, to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, to E.T...You name it, and there's probably a reference to it Paul. But it is also making fun of the genre, the absurdities of the sci-fi stereotypes (Paul asks, "why does everybody assume I want to probe them? Am I harnessing farts or something?"), and of the dweebs who get into this stuff to the point where they dress up and attend conventions. So it acts as a love letter to sci-fi fans, yes...but it also includes jokes from those on the outside looking in.
Simon Pegg & Nick Frost are two brilliant comedians who have created a cult following in their movies "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz", to name a few. I won't state if Paul is better or worse than their previous films, because that's not how I judge movies. By itself, Paul creates a steady rhythm of laughs from the first frame to the last, like a well-orchestrated symphony. There is never a dull moment, never a dry spell, and the 2 goons at the center of the film are so likeable I just find it hard not to leave with a smile.
Bottom Line. So Paul as a movie, doesn't offer much: The characters don't grow or change and the plot barely exists. But as a comedy, it is a smart and well-executed film featuring an all-star cast of comic gold. When Paul the alien is the most normal character in the film, you know it's going to be a pretty outrageous outing.
Being considered a sci-fi geek can often alienate a person, so there are definite themes in the movie of not fitting in. In a movie about an alien from outer space, it has to be grounded in believability to really work, and who better to understand what Paul is going through better than these two man-children...outcasts in society no doubt, on an adventure in a country that is alien to them. Often, the best science fiction is when you can connect the imagination and ground it with the human struggle...a feat Paul conquers brilliantly, even amongst the zany comedy.
So go see Paul, and embrace your inner nerd.
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