Let me just say, first things first, that I am the target audience for today’s film. I’m a sci-fi nerd, I’m a dork, I love me some Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and every member of the supporting cast fills me with joy. Instead of crapping on, let’s just get to it – today’s film is Paul.
Pegg and Frost (assuming their usual task of writers and stars) play Clive Gollings and “the author” Graeme Willy, two comic artists from the UK who are in the US for ComiCon. Following their trip to Nerd Mecca, they take a road trip across the US, planning to hit all the major UFO hotspots. Things go awry when they actually run into an alien named Paul (and voiced by Seth Rogen) who convinces them to take him to a certain well known mountain (especially if you have seen Close Encounters Of The Third Kind) so he can finally leave Earth. Along the way, our merry band accidentally kidnap Ruth (Kristen Wiig) a rather religious young lady who’s faith get shattered by Paul’s existence and cross paths with government agents Zoil, Haggerty and O’Reilly (Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Trugio, respectively) who have been enlisted by The Big Guy (telling you would be a spoiler) to get Paul back. Hilarity most definitely ensues, along with some rather hilarious nods to some rather popular Sci Fi films.
The big question is, “is this film as good as Shaun of The Dead or Hot Fuzz?” and I will answer honestly – no, no it’s not. But it does come close in several places. What you have to realise, though, is that this is a different beast to those films – while they were quintessentially British takes on established “American” genres, Paul is a film that takes place in the US in which the two main (human) protagonists just happen to be British, but their nationality makes no ultimate bearing on the plot or their reactions to what happens around them. Plus, the fact that the film is directed by someone other than Simon and Nick’s “usual guy” (Greg “Superbad” Mottola rather than Edgar Wright, who was off doing Scott Pilgrim at the time) helps to give Paul a different feel than their earlier team-ups.
However, do not let that steer you away – as Paul is a mighty fine film in its own right. Yes, it does start off a little slowly before the introduction of Paul himself (although there are plenty of good natured laughs to be had at the nature of Cons and small town USA), but once the plot kicks in, it is a fun, funny and charming ride to the end. This comes not only from the charm of the three main leads (it’s kind of nice to see a CGI character that the IRL human leads deal with as an actual character and not just a ping pong ball on a stick) but also that of the secondaries, in particular SNL alums Wiig and Hader. Wiig, especially, getting to play against her usual SNL type (Ruth’s introduction to the world of swearing always brings the laughs).
In Paul, Pegg and Frost have crafted a film that is more than worthy to stand alongside Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz.