I’m a huge fan of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost tagteam. Shaun of the Dead ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite zombie movies, and I loved the equally well done (albeit slightly less successful) Hot Fuzz. Plus you’ve got director Greg Mottola, of Superbad and Adventureland notariety, at the helm of this extraterrestrial buddy flick. Throw in the comedic stylings of Kristin Wigg, Jason Bateman, and Seth Rogen who voices the foul mouthed and eponymous alien creature, and you’ve got a recipe for guaranteed hilarity, right? Well…
Here is the premise of Paul. Two super geeks from the UK take their lifelong dream of coming to America to attend the famous San Diego Comic Con, followed by an RV trip to historic UFO and alien related hotspots around the southwest. In between stops they have a close encounter of their own with Paul, an alien who’s been stuck on earth for the last 60 years making a desperate last break from his shadowy government type captors. His escape plan ran afoul, so he enlists the help of Graeme and Clive, the aforementioned sci-fi buffs, to get him to the rendezvous spot with his rescue ship. Hot on their trail is Agent Zoil (Bateman) under orders to bring back the alien dead or alive so that they can harvest his organs and learn the secrets of Paul’s powers (predator-like camouflage, telapathic transference, tactile regeneration, etc) . As the movie progresses we’re introduced to new friends and foes like hardcore christian fundamentalist Ruth (Wigg), gun toting redneck homophobes, bumbling FBI agents, and sinister government higher ups.
Truth be told, there were a couple of inspired moments in this film. Being a regular San Diego comic con attendee myself, I was excited that the opening bits showed Pegg and Frost mixing it up with the super geeks there, setting a fun and familiar tone for self aware sci fi comedies (sort of like Galaxy Quest, although not quite as “meta”). Then things slowed way down as the first leg of the road trip got underway. The jokes were few and far between, mostly consisting of the sporadic “oh hey, those two guys traveling together are gay” gags. Not exactly comedy gold, even when they ARE well done. Which they weren’t. I found myself counting down the minutes until the little green man would finally show up, hopefully infusing the movie with a much needed boost of direction, energy, and shenanigans.
And yes, for a while I found myself with a renewed interest in the movie while they fleshed out Paul’s character (pun intended in honor of the abundant space genitalia jokes). Seth Rogen has a great character actor voice. Even his laugh has a certain distinguishable and infectious character to it. However, I felt that Rogen, like much of the cast, was hamstrung by poor writing and a slew of what I dub “Two and a Half Men-esque” one liners. Those are painfully obvious jokes that pander to comedy’s lowest common denominator, and feel like they were spit out by feeding dick and fart synonyms into a random situation generator. Oh, multiple alien butt probing jokes. Ha. Oh, the nerd is speaking Klingon. Ha. Oh, the rednecks think the British guys are gay and want to beat them up. Ha. It’s not that “Paul” was without a few genuine moments of inspired writing and creativity. It’s just that those moments get lost amidst the torrential deluge of vapid, thoughtless cinema.
Long story long, I was excited about the cast, the crew, the story, and the trailer. That’s probably my bad. It’s possible my expectations were too high going into this movie. I suppose it’s enjoyable enough if you go in with the right mindset. Definitely not on par with other Pegg/Frost collaborations, but funny enough in its own way. I thought Wigg probably did the best with what she was given, and of course Rogen’s Paul was still a loveable little protagonist. I’d say wait for the DVD and a rainy day, maybe indulge in some of that military grade weed Paul is rocking. Couldn’t hurt.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below!