Paul (2011): Who’s Up for a Close Encounter?

Posted: May 9, 2014 in Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
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paulIn their element at the San Diego Comic Con, Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings are simply excited to meet their idol, Adam Shadowchild. After getting brushed off, they return to the hotel to review their plans to travel the western US and visit the marquee alien-related landmarks. Jumping in the RV, they travel for a while but then stop at A’Le’Inn to grab a quick bite. They have a run-in with a couple of hunters, causing them to leave quickly and return to the road. Later that night, a car begins to honk its horn and speed up on them, making them fearful that the hunters are after them. The car speeds past and crashes. When Graeme and Clive go to investigate, Paul, a smart-mouthed alien, emerges and surprised the two men. Graeme agrees to invite Paul along for the ride. Eventually, they pick up another passenger, a religious fanatic who is startled by Paul’s presence. Their travel is not without company, as each stop adds to the suspicion and hunting for the extraterrestrial.

Starring: Simon Pegg (Graeme Willy), Nick Frost (Clive Gollings), Seth Rogan (Paul), Jeffrey Tambor (Adam Shadowchild), Jane Lynch (Pat Stevens), David Koechner (Gus), Jesse Plemons (Jake), Jason Bateman (Agent Zoil), Bill Hader (Haggard), Joe Lo Truglio (O’Reilly), Sigourney Weaver (The Big Guy), Kristen Wiig (Ruth Biggs), John Carrol Lynch (Moses Biggs), Blythe Danner (Tara Walton)

While Pegg and Frost have had a lot of success in the past, this film was a little bit of a step back for their comedic style. They had less of the play back and forth that was so prevalent in Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. Instead, Frost plays the more serious and responsible member of the team, while Pegg is a bit more of the free spirit. Rogan’s role as Paul was a little heavy-handed at first but actually became a little too soft in comparison later in the film. The cameos with Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, and Blythe Danner fit the movie well, while some of the supporting performances with Batemon, Wiig, and Hader also matched the overall feel of the film.

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Greg Mottola’s success with Superbad and Adventureland could be picked out in glimmers in this story. The film started with a little bit of a slow setup to the adventure, although it definitely provided good backstory for the geeky starring pair. The run-in with the hunters felt a little forced into the plot. Although they reappeared later in the story, their role was truly minor in the grand scheme of the adventure. Once Paul was introduced, the story truly began. A little unpredictable and raunchy at the start, Paul tested the traveling pair as he redirected their plan to get to his final destination. Immediately after picking Paul up, Agent Zoil, Haggard, and O’Reilly were immediately on their trail. They had enough time to take refuge in an RV park, where they met Ruth Biggs. Paul’s ability to share knowledge through touch completely changed her opinion about religion versus science. The story then turned toward the chase and Paul’s desire to return home.

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A film like this is all about the comedy and less about the depth of the story. On this point, the level of humor stayed relatively even-keeled. Some of the funnier moments were Ruth’s initial confrontation with Paul and a true challenge to her beliefs, the confrontation at the bar, and the final confrontation with The Big Guy. The back and forth conversations and disputes between Agent Zoil and the other officers felt a little forced and Zoil came off as too stoic at times. Paul’s character included some intriguing background elements, such as helping Spielberg with developing ET and using his gifts to help the government, but these felt a little dry as well. The physical comedy felt more like regular action, unlike the record tossing scene from Shaun of the Dead or the final standoff from Hot Fuzz.

This is an interesting and entertaining film that just falls short of being memorable. Not one of the better comedies in the series with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5

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