Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Joe Lo Trugilo, Blythe Danner
Written by Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
Directed by Greg Mottola
Release: 18 March 2011
Universal, 104 mins., Rated R
Plot: Two geeks and a alien road-trip comedy with lots of car chases, geek references, and lack of anal probing.
E.T. & REESE'S PIECES!
VOICE OF STEVEN SPIELBERG!
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK!
DIALOGUE INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ALIENS, JAWS, AND STAR WARS!!!
That's just a sample of the many science fiction geek haven references in this loving sci-fi comedy from the brilliant British duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who you may just happen to know from Shaun of the Dead (although I still hold that Hot Fuzz is superior), and are responsible for script writing duties on this one. Pegg and Frost craft a story that is many things: a crazy road trip adventure, hilarious comedy, a geekgasm central, movie reference world, and a fun and honest look at friendship (well, bromance, really).
Now, I did quite enjoy Paul, and I won't hesitate to recommend it to anyone (especially fans of the sci-fi genre), but there's something that doesn't sit completely well with the movie. It feels...uneven. Although I love the movie references - I really, truly, honestly do - I think it's there where the movie has some fault. At times, it feels as if the film trends too deeply into the referential moments instead of spending more time on evolving the friendship/bromance of Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost). There are heartfelt scenes spliced between hilarious and action-y scenes, but they don't ultimately have the satisfaction and dimension I was looking for. It's not until the final half when all the elements of the movie come together beautifully, and it flows effortlessly from there. That being said, the friendships that come out of meeting Paul and Ruth are fantastically rendered, with Paul becoming a instantly lovable character [and I mean character, not just fancy CGI work, he really becomes a character instead of impressive pixels] and Ruth's epiphany about the universe is hilarious, as is her consequential flirtation with Graeme and concern for her angry father's well being (who has been following them for some time now).
While on the topic of characters, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio's agents Haggard and O'Reily are awesome and hilarious, particularly Haggard who never fails to bring a laugh. By contrast, usual funny guy Jason Bateman is full on serious as Agent Zoil, hellbent on retrieving Paul for the Big Man Upstairs. Even Seth Rogen is fantastic as the titular Paul, never coming off as obnoxious as he typically does, instead delivering enjoyable and hilarious voice work. Kristen Wiig rocks as the die-hard Christian who gets her faith blown apart by Paul imparting the knowledge of the universe to her, and Ruth's subsequent enjoyment of a care free life is absolutely hilarious, a comedy bit that will be hard to beat this year.
Paul isn't laugh-out-loud funny and it doesn't match the same brilliance of Pegg and Frost's collaborations with Edgar Wright, whose equally zany sense of humor created some truly marvelous films. Still, this is a fun movie, with enough geek references to make a true die-hard fan laugh and chuckle in the movie theater as everyone else in the audience scratches their head puzzled at why you laughed when a character dies driving off a cliff. Pegg and Frost are, as expected, awesome...even their really bad looking hair. The entire cast is committed to making this movie fun, and they succeed. Pegg, Frost, Wiig, Bateman, Hadder, Trugilo, Danner, Rogen - it's a great ensemble cast who deliver the funny. Paul may not be the end-all, true-all awesomest geek comedy of all time, but it's a great start in the right direction.
Rating: 7/10 = A damn good road trip comedy with sci-fi references galore and some great performances, just wish it had a bit more in the character department