‘Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.‘
Paul certainly isn’t going to be winning any awards but it is a lot of fun. The story of a road trip across the U.S. with an alien passenger is ripe for the referential style of humour that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are famous for, and the movie generally doesn’t disappoint. This movie was made for a very specific type of audience member and if you’re not sure that you’re one of them, you should stay away because you’re probably not going to get the joke.
The story is fairly simple: Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are following their visit to Comic-Con with a road trip across the U.S. to visit all the UFO hotspots. Along the way they manage to pick up an actual alien who’s looking to escape from the Men in Black. Paul (Seth Rogen) crashed on earth in the 40’s and has been a ‘guest’ of the government ever since. He’s not your typical alien, and that’s part of the problem with his character. Paul is just Seth Rogen in CGI form. Apart from the visuals (admittedly very good), there wasn’t anything to differentiate him from the rest of the cast. I felt that his too human nature detracted from the movie, and made the relationships with the human characters feel a little odd.
Thankfully the great chemistry that Pegg and Frost always display is in great form here. Paul is essentially a buddy movie and these two characters give the movie its heart. Their characters are believable, their motivations understandable, they are perfect surrogates for the intended audience. While the Paul character felt a little off, the interactions that Graeme and Clive have with him feel very true to the characters. The dynamic they have with Ruth (Kristin Wiig) feels great too.
Unfortunately, the character of Ruth feels really off. The religious fundamentalist that she is introduced as feels really over the top. You can have a lot of fun with religion if you do it right (as they did in the referenced Blues Brothers) but Ruth and her father cover every cliché in the book. It just felt really obvious and over done to me. Once her character loosens up she’s a lot more fun, but I still think that there were much better ways she could have been done.
This isn’t a movie that you’re going to be roaring with laughter at, but it manages to be funny throughout. While some of the references feel a little obvious most of them work really well, Sigourney Weaver’s cameo in particular is a shining example. The story plays out in a very satisfying manner and doesn’t try to throw in any unnecessary twists for shock value.
Overall it’s not as good as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but it’s still a lot of fun. If you’re a fan of their other films Paul is certainly worth checking out.
What I Liked – The chemistry between Pegg and Frost was as great as ever. A lot of the subtle references were great. Sigourney Weaver’s cameo was a lot of fun.
What I Didn’t Like – The religious sub-plot felt over the top rather than funny. Some of the references felt a little forced. The character of Paul never really worked for me.
Rating – 3 out of 5 (Average)