It’s really not fair to compare Paul to cult favorites Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but let’s face it; everyone is going to do it anyway. Even
though it was written by and stars the beloved Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, without writer/director Edgar Wright, Paul just can’t match either
of those films. But that’s not saying it isn’t a lot of fun.
Even more than their previous collaborations, Paul relies heavily on geek-culture references. If you don’t know classic sci-fi, about half of
the jokes in the film will go over your head. The film is almost constantly referencing the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, E.T., Close
Encounters and The X-Files.
In this way, Paul is actually most reminiscent of their British Television series, Spaced.
Because of this, Paul is a bit too obscure for mainstream appeal, but for us nerds, it’s pretty damn funny.
Pegg and Frost load the film with less obvious references than we are used to, giving it a fresher, more clever feel than you’ll usually find
in this type of film.
Where their screenplay falters a bit is in the inclusion of more clichéd comedic devices. See: a couple of dumb cops, or the bible-thumping
I feel like there are a couple different films doing battle in Paul, one a fun, geeky sci-fi flavored road picture, the other a typically goofy
Director Greg Mottola doesn’t successfully blend the two, and it’s here that Edgar Wright is missed the most. Mottola doesn’t have the
energetic visual style of Wright, nor his hyper comedic timing. He’s not a bad director, but once again, we can’t help but compare Paul to
those other films.
Paul himself is an alien on the run from the US government, and he’s a great creation. His visual design is completely unoriginal and the
animation isn’t anything spectacular, but he’s a fun, crass character. Seth Rogen voices Paul and does a great job in making him a
disgusting asshole that you can still root for.
Paul is worth seeing because the chemistry between Pegg, Frost and Rogen absolutely works.
The film also builds to a nice conclusion and it’s easier to forgive some of its shortcomings because it ends strongly.
Paul certainly won’t be the most notable in the Pegg/Frost filmography, but it’s an unquestionably funny film. If you’re a fan of sci-fi or of
Pegg and Frost's previous works, Paul is a great way to waste 104 minutes of your life.
* * *
(out of four)
Directed by: Greg Mottola
Written by: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason
Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Sigourney Weaver
Cinematography by: Lawrence Sher
Music by: David Arnold
Released: March 18, 2011; 104 Minutes