Penned by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Paul is a decent enough flick as long as you don’t compare it with Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. What with Edgar Wright being busy with the likes of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and whatnot, the directing duties for Paul fell to Greg Mottola, of Superbad fame. The results are alright (and it features an incredible supporting cast) but it’s only intermittently hilarious.
Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are two geeks who’ve travelled to the US to do a road trip of a whole host of famous UFO hotspots. Whilst on the road, they inadvertently run into real-life alien, Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who’s on the lam and trying to make his way home.
As a purely CGI creation, Paul is pretty well done. Whilst he never looks completely like he’s sharing the same space as the backgrounds, the lighting and the physical moments between him and the humans are impressive. It takes a moment to get used to Rogen’s voice coming out of Paul – initially it seems too out of place in this skinny little runt, but you soon get used to it. Pegg and Frost are at the top of their game, as always, and if you’re a fan of their work as far back as ‘Spaced’ (as I am), then seeing these two sharing the screen is enough to make the cost of your movie ticket worthwhile.
The script has its high and low points. The first ten minutes are rather light on for humour and charm, and I couldn’t help but wonder how it would have worked if Wright had been directing. By comparison, Mottola has no distinguishable visual style. This is by no means rare in (particularly comedy) filmmaking these days, but it’s all the more apparent in this case because of the previous films in which Pegg and Frost appeared. In the end, it gets the job done, but it certainly isn’t begging for a Blu-Ray investment the same way as Scott Pilgrim did.
The supporting cast is what really ensures this film gets over the line. An incredible line-up of comic luminaries makes an appearance, from Jeffrey Tambor to Jane Lynch to Jason Bateman to Bill Hader to Kristen Wiig. It’s Wiig that very nearly steals the show time and time again, as a creationist fundamentalist Darwin-hating Christian who ends up joining Greg, Clive and Paul on their adventure.
A bromance of sorts, Paul ends on a high note (indeed, brings out its best jokes right at the end) rather than having the humour fizzle out towards the conclusion, as often happens with comedies. It references a whole host of famous films, including Star Wars, Back to the Future, Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, however such allusions are often distracting rather than clever. It’s a middling effort for Frost and Pegg, though fully deserving of a watch on DVD.Rating: