Paul Review

Posted on April 16, 2011 by

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I was hesitant about seeing this movie, because I’d heard a lot of negative feedback and reviews. As a reviewer, I kind of have to pay attention to other reviews, because if I don’t, why on earth should my own readers pay attention to mine? It’s kind of hypocritical. On the other hand, I’m sort of meant to be impartial, which is difficult when everyone you know in your field tells you it’s a bad movie before you’ve even seen it. Well, having gotten over that strange metaphysical conundrum, I saw Paul.

Based on a script written by Simon Pegg (Spaced, Hot Fuzz, Big Nothing) and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hyperdrive), the current hot British comedy duo in film, Paul has been subjected to re-writes by Americans, who frankly don’t understand British humour and so replaced a lot of it with their own brand of ‘awkward’ humour (‘awkward humour’ being as oxymoronic as ‘trustworthy politician’). I’m not saying they ruined a great script, just that they’re complete lack of trust in the massively successful comedy duo (and by successful I mean that their entirely British movies went over amazingly in America too) has resulted in a film that just feels slightly off-key. Watching Paul is like listening to Beethoven being played by Jamie Cullum. Yes, it’s Beethoven, but it’s Jamie Cullum playing it.

Pegg and Frost play a pair of British Nerds (though they describe themselves as English, a word I never thought I’d hear in an American film, since they seem to think England, Wales and Scotland are all the same bit) on a pilgrimage to the San Diego Comic Con, also known as the Nerd’s Mecca. Clive Gollings (Frost) is a science-fiction writer and Graeme Willy (Pegg) his graphic artist. After attending Comic Con, they decide the best way to follow up the ‘Con would be to take a road trip, visiting a number of sites of extra-terrestrial import. Along the way, they encounter Paul, an Alien who has escaped Area 51 and is trying to get the heck out of dodge before the Men in Black (well, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio) catch him and drag him back for dissection.

Before long, they accidentally abduct a creationist Christian Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig- Despicable Me, How to Train your Dragon), and, in a moment I found hugely uncomfortable, Paul basically mind melds with her and ‘cures’ her of her faith, turning her into a horny, bisexual, swearing Atheist. Now yeah, I’m an Atheist myself, but I also think that everyone is fully entitled to believe in whatever they want provided it doesn’t hurt anyone. If it gets you through the day, I couldn’t care less. Belief doesn’t necessarily make you an idiot in the same way that Atheists aren’t all members of MENSA. This movie treats those of faith as if they are mentally deficient and must be cured, which really got on my tits.

Anyway, before I fly into a rage defending Christianity (a sentence you will almost certainly never see me write again), let’s talk about Paul himself. Paul is played by Seth Rogen. It might be more apt to say that Paul is Seth Rogen. To whit, he is loud, crass, arrogant and tactless, and is often funny despite these seemingly negative qualities. The thing is, while Paul himself never changes throughout the movie, he is an agent of change, and everyone around him is (according to the movie) changed for the better. See, Paul has actually been around for a while (about 60 years) and has been happily helping humanity out with his extensive knowledge (and helping Stephen Spielberg come up with ideas for E.T.), but has now exhausted his usefulness, and the only things he has left to give are his physical abilities such as the aforementioned mind melding, turning invisible and healing things with his hands (which totally wont become a plot point). The problem is, in order to learn about those special abilities, the MIB basically need to carve up Paul’s brain.

Wacky Hijinks occur as the gang travels to the pick-up point for Paul’s Spaceship, along the way picking up Tara Walkton (Blythe Danner) the girl who saved Paul the night he crashed on Earth (and on her dog), now an old, slightly crazy woman, and find themselves fleeing not only the MIB, but a pair of rednecks who got their truck dented by our heroes RV, and Ruth’s insane, shotgun wielding father Moses.

The plot moves at a good, steady pace, and it keeps you laughing throughout. The characters are well written and three-dimensional, and it’s certainly worth watching at least once, if not just for yet another excellent bromantic performance by Pegg and Frost. The references are many, mostly Star Wars references, but they don’t feel shoe-horned in. This movie is a Nerd-fest of great proportions, but I can’t escape the nagging feeling that it could have been so much better if they’d let Edgar Wright direct it, though in fairness I don’t think Simon Pegg should be let out of the house without Wright around, but these days Eddie seems to be more interested in chilling with Quentin Tarantino, who is also awesome, so, whatever. Anyway, go see Paul, you wont be disappointed.

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Posted in: Movies, Review