“Agent Mulder was right!”
“Agent Mulder was my idea!”
Thanks to following Nick Frost and Simon Pegg (the writers, producers and stars of Paul) on Twitter, I’ve been getting alerts about this production for the last year. I wasn’t sure how big a release this film was going to get until the last month. With such a large release, I can honestly say this is a great opportunity for a larger American audiences to easily introduce themselves to these two funny guys and what they do best. Did I mention the rest of the cast is great, too? Oh yeah, they are.
Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are two British geeks and struggling comic book artists visiting San Diego for ComicCon. While in the States for the first time in their geeky lives, the duo decide to road trip to the different UFO sites of the southwest. Things take a bizarre turn quickly when a car crash in front of their eyes reveals a short green-grey alien named Paul who just escaped a government agency, where he was held for decades. With the sinister government agency on their tail, the trio race to get Paul to the rendezvous site so he can get home.
If you liked Shaun of the Dead, Spaced or Hot Fuzz, chances are you’re going to like Paul. That’s not to say the four projects are exactly the same, but they have similar attitudes and the same reverence for passionate geekery (although Edgar Wright was not involved with this movie). There are plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle references to some of the most beloved scifi books, movies and television ever. Its revealed early on that in addition to sharing his knowledge of alien technology with the government, Paul was a consultant to certain Hollywood directors and producers that needed inspiration for their scifi projects – hence the quote at the top. You see, Paul doesn’t look like the stereotypical Hollywood alien… the stereotypical Hollywood alien looks like Paul.
|Working Title Films|
And you know what? Paul is a cool guy. I want to have a few drinks with him and shoot the shit. He’s not a perfect being (he can definitely get a little raunchy and has a serious case of remorse towards the end of the story), but he is a good person and an interesting one at that. I’m serious, a large part of this movie’s success is how likable this alien is. He’s kind, open-minded despite his extensive knowledge of the universe and he knows how to make his friends (and the audience) laugh. Bravo to Seth Rogen for pulling his voice off so well. Oh, and by the way, this is easily the most seamlessly I’ve seen a CGI character interact with real actors and a real setting since Gollum in Lord of the Rings. That suspension of disbelief was consistently strong throughout the entire film.
If you know anything about previous Nick Frost/Simon Pegg projects, Frost usually plays the happy-go-lucky one and Pegg is usually more of a stick-in-the-mud type. Here, Pegg’s Graeme immediately takes a shine to Paul, but Frost’s Clive is firmly against them helping him. This conflict gets resolved relatively quickly, but it was fun to see the roles reversed for this duo.
One character that has me on the fence is Ruth, Graeme’s love interest (played by Kristen Wiig). She starts off the movie as a backwater, uneducated, evolution-denying Christian, and I feel like we’ve seen enough of that character. It’s been done to death. And she’s the only character in the whole movie that comes from a religious background, besides her father who is just as backwater. I know it’s a comedy, but that stereotype bothers me. That being said, Wiig herself comes off as incredibly charming and because of her actual performance, the character redeems herself a little bit for me personally. I can see Wiig having a very successful career outside of SNL in the next few years.
The supporting cast really made this movie fun and thrilling. Jason Bateman was brilliant as the cold and calculating Agent following the group. Joe Lo Truglio and the always funny Bill Hader are two rookie agents kept out of the loop (but who slowly figure out what’s going on). Their reactions when things go full-on action flick are priceless. Blythe Danner takes on a more somber performance as the grown woman whose life Paul accidentally ruined when he first landed on Earth. And there are a plethora of cameos; these surprises might have been revealed to you already, but I’m not going to add to the spoilage. Needless to say, they’re very funny.
Another nice touch is that the beginning is set at ComicCon. They had to use a soundstage and paid extras for most of it, but it did represent the convention (and convention goers in general) very well. Plus, all the cosplay examples were a delight for the eyes… or the funny bone, depending on the attendees.
Overall: Paul is a film about scifi fans, made by scifi fans FOR scifi fans. It’s a win/win/win for the dork in us all.
4 out of 5