Year of Release—Film: 2011
Two British fanboys (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) travel to the San Diego Comic-Con. There they meet like-minded geeks, Star Wars freaks, a sexually active Wookie, sci-fi author and personal idol Adam Shadowchild ... and one small, wise-cracking alien named Paul.
Graham (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are traveling buddies out to visit the most famous UFO sighting hot-spots, including Roswell Area 51 where, in 1947, an alien UFO crashed and was confiscated and it’s discovery covered up by the Government. After visiting the near-by Little A’Le’Inn restaurant where they have an unpleasant encounter with two red-necks, the two leave to visit Area 51 when suddenly a speeding car comes screaming by and crashes. Graham and Clive stop to offer help and meet Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), a alien who has successfully escaped the Area 51 encampment and needs a ride to the place where his fellow aliens have promised to pick him up for a return to his home planet. UFO sites forgotten in the excitement of meeting an actual alien, the duo agrees to the new destination and off they go!
Along the way, they meet an eye-patch wearing ultra-religious young woman named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) and her controlling father Moses Buggs (John Carroll Lynch). While spending the night at the Buggs RV camp sight, Ruth catches sight of Paul and faints. When she wakes and she begins to spout religious dogma, Paul, quickly tires of it and transfers his vast knowledge of evolution to her mind and Ruth, finely freed of her father's twisted Biblical history, begins swearing ... like a little child whose just learning swear words! And Paul, seeing her blind eye, heals her with a gentle touch. Now on the lam from men in black who take orders from a steely-voiced but as yet unseen woman and from Ruth’s gun-toting zealot father, they race against time to reunite Paul with the mothership!
Penned by SHAUN OF THE DEAD’s Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, PAUL is a sci-fi geek’s wet-dream, chock-full of references to other classic science fiction films. Paul, rather than being kept hostage by the Government agency, was given free run on the facility and was an incalculable aid to Steven Spielberg via phone conversations while ET: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL was in the planning stages. And in the honky-tonk scene, the band is playing the “Cantina Band” tune from STAR WARS. And how can one possibly dislike a movie in which Pegg and Frost reenact Captain Kirk’s epic fight with the Gorn from the Star Trek episode “Arena”!?! In an effort to avoid being called a MAC AND ME rip-off (noted by Clive/ Nick Frost when he says “I have dreamt of meeting you ever since I saw Mac and Me,”) the team did their best to make their alien different. And they succeeded! Paul is a profanity-spewing little wise-cracker who smokes dope and talks about the size of his sexual equipment. In a June 12, 2011 interview with Den of Geek blog Simon Pegg is quoted as saying:
“We could have toned down the language a little bit, and maybe we should have done. We could have got a bigger box office take if we’d made it a PG. But we didn’t want it to look like a children’s film. We wanted people from the off to know that it wasn’t a kids’ film. And so, we stuck to our guns, as ... we wanted an R. And we got it.”
Still, cigarette-smoking, occasionally invisible Paul isn’t all bad. He has highly sensitive empathic powers healing powers as seen in the eye healing scene with Ruth. And he did bring a dead bird back to life (even if he did eat it immediately afterwards!). And even in his rush to find his mothership, Paul takes the time to settle an old score with Tara Walton (Blythe Danner) who has been thought crazy by the townsfolk for the past 60 years for claiming a spaceship killed her dog.
The cast in PAUL showed they were clearly up to the task and their performances were all above par. Kristie Wiig was both believable and unbelievably funny as the reformed girl Ruth. Her swearing need some work though! Jason Bateman as the secret agent tough-guy Zoil and Sigourney Weaver in a stellar cameo were a great bonus! Pegg and Frost play their bro-mance a tad too realistically (IMO) but still come off as a natural pairing with enthusiasm and wild humor. But, the star of this movie is Paul! Profane and all-around crass, Paul has a sensitive side, too and is an agreeably laid-back kind of fellow. Seth Rogen does a good job voicing Paul and the CGI is above average.
Is it a perfect buddy-flick? No. PAUL will delight sci-fi movie fanboys (and fangirls!) with it's inside jokes and will probably leave those not familiar with those movies feeling they are missing something. But, the humor is top-notch, the pacing fast and the acting great! A word of caution, though—should you rent or buy PAUL, watch the unrated version as the theatrical version cuts short some of the jokes.
Enjoy! And I know you will!