Notable Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, John Carrol Lynch, Sigourney Weaver
Review: Paul, the first big comedy of the year. What do you get when you mix the director of Superbad and the nerdy writer of Shaun of the Dead? A foul-mouthed little alien that heads a rip-roaring sci-fi comedy. It’s great to see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost back together again since Hot Fuzz, and also to see them cultivating a script together. Their writing is perfect for this kind of movie. Pegg himself is heavy into comic books, even being the direct source for a character in one of my favorite comics “The Boys”, so having them executing geek humor is more than ideal. But beyond that, Mottola shows that he can handle any kind of comedy, branching out from the streamlined high school comedy. Paul will appeal to space fans especially, but will also appease laugh seekers of the world just as wholly.
Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are a writing/illustrating duo from the UK visiting the States for their west coast extra-terrestrial landmarks. Starting at Comic-Con, the duo plans to live out their every nerdy fantasy via a lavish RV trip. But when they encounter a real alien named Paul (Rogen), their trip becomes a little more complicated. Paul is on the lam from the US Government, just trying to make it home without his brain being harvested for information. Along the way, the trio of course run into a bevy of problems and meet a few new friends. Can Graeme and Clive hold it together long enough to save their new compadre? Or will Paul have his cover blown during one of the inevitable run ins they inevitably encounters?
The pairing of Mottola and the British duo was perfect for the tone of this film. As per his previous work, Mottola brought the raunchiness while Pegg and Frost wrote a script that stuck closely to their lovable British roots. Pegg and Frost played giant man children obsessed with everything science fiction, and the script did a lot to toy with the stigmas that come along with their hobby. We always see the negative depictions of nerd culture in Hollywood, usually accompanied by stereotypical characters with nasally voices, thick rimmed glasses, and pepperoni faces. But because Pegg and Frost are actually part of nerd culture in real life, the script contains the heart only real fanboys could put in. Having such an extensive knowledge of the source material let the writers tap into so many deeper jokes than the usual surface value alien gags. So many references to classic science fiction were peppered into Paul that any geek, from the hardcore to the underlings, are sure to love the inside jokes. Who doesn’t love a biker bar version of the Star Wars Cantina background music? Paul is written in a way that I believe Pegg and Frost are literally playing versions of themselves on-screen. Not only that, but they actually depict “nerds” for the real people they are. It’s so easy to stereotype a nerd, but when someone comes along and actually gives the nerdcore underground its rightful respect, the end product is entirely more rewarding.
But most of all, Paul is just wholesome fun. The movie is funny, and there’s no special glaring reason. The rest of the cast is extremely well placed including Hader, Lo Truglio, Bateman, Wiig, and Rogen as the voice of Paul, which fit perfectly I might add. Hader is the master scene stealer no matter when he’s on-screen though. It’s almost not fair pairing him with the inferior yet still comical Lo Truglio, because Hader is the perfect accompanying character. No matter how many times I see him I’ll keep saying it: Bill Hader is the funniest comedian to come out of the recent SNL class. Paul it yet another film that solidifies Hader’s status as the greatest comedic support available in Hollywood today. What was his role here, the fumbling rookie FBI agent looking for his big break? Doesn’t matter what character he’s given, Hader can put his own ridiculous spin on it. As does Wiig, playing the previously conservative religious nut now embracing her new free spirited life style. If not for Hader, Wiig would be my favorite SNL talent. Her strongest feature is her doe-eyed facial expressions mixed with her embracing of ridiculousness that made her work so well with Pegg as a love interest. Some actresses just can’t pull of the crazy girl role, but Wiig seems to thrive there. The character Ruth was based off of innocence mixed with naivety, creating a perfect character for Wiig’s style. But, the greatest character of the movie had to be Paul. I love how he was written to just be another person, instead of some crazy creature that didn’t understand anything about our civilization. Pegg and Frost didn’t have to take care of Paul, but instead accompany him and deal with his crazy ideas. He also hated typical alien clichés and was always making fun of things like probing, which was fun to hear coming from an alien. And only Rogen’s voice could give an alien the aura of a stoner. He smoked, he drank, he cursed: Paul was flat-out hilarious. If we ever make contact with extra-terrestrial life, I’m praying I meet a little green dude like Paul to party with me. That, and I know he wouldn’t disintegrate me.
Well set your phasers to laugh, because Paul was out of this world funny. It’s great to see a few things come from this movie: Mottola can do something more than high school humor, Pegg and Frost get to form their epic British duo again, Rogen has a part that doesn’t play on his usual character points, and nerds of the world finally get proper Hollywood treatment. Paul makes alien movies funny again, instead of violent war films hell-bent on destroying humanity. The little green guy gets my full endorsement, making Paul a no brainer versus some of the other movies in theaters right now.
Final Rating: 7.5 pot smoking aliens out of 10