Directed by: Greg Mottola
Written by: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Jane Lynch, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio and Sigourney Weaver
Paul tells the story of Graeme and Clive, two sci-fi fans who travel to Comic-Con from the UK to begin their US road-trip visiting UFO landing sites. Their first time in the US, they rent a winnebago and begin their journey across country. The trip goes awry one night, after leaving a UFO-themed bar and a spot of bother with the locals, when the car ahead of them crashes and a small, green, cigarette-smoking alien called Paul steps out of the wreckage.
Paul is on the run and convinces the two English dimwits to help him. Chased by Jason Bateman’s stern Agent Zoil and his hapless minions Haggard (Bill Hader) and O’Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio), the threesome begin their unusual get away.
The first act takes a while to warm up, the writing in the beginning feels very forced and errs to the side of cheesy but gains momentum as the film gets into its stride towards the end. You are very aware when the natural jokes of each of the performers comes through as these are, unsurprisingly, the best parts. Considering its writers, the script is strangely lacklustre on the whole, but is saved purely by the talent of the cast with each playing to their own strengths, which some will love, but others will find too predictable.
The scope of the jokes are mostly a little too obvious, and because of this they often fall flat. You do feel this is may be because they are playing for safe territory, but when the jokes that feel truly Pegg and Frost’s style come through, they are at their usual brilliance and prevent the film from losing its way. Splattered throughout are the sci-fi references you’d expect; they are numerous, but they stay just shy of being too self-aware.
Kristen Wiig is the only cast member not playing to usual type, her cycloptic, uber religious character Ruth Buggs takes away her usual deadpan sarcasm, replacing it with naivety played strictly for laughs. The atheistic intentions played through her character are a little trite, with her role largely used as an excuse to have a woman say ridiculous obscene words as she struggles with her faith.
Paul as a character holds up surprisingly well, Rogen’s voice isn’t too overpowering to break you of the character and, despite being CG, soon slots into the dynamic of the other characters.
The real standouts are Pegg, Frost and Bateman. The friendship between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost still holds up as the main relationship within the film and doesn’t feel overdone. This is largely because they have changed the dynamic, allowing Frost to go beyond his usual role of idiot sidekick, to perhaps the more intelligent of the two. Jason Bateman is excellent as the agent tracking them down, feeling overly cheesy at first, but he becomes a highlight towards the end.
Even though the film doesn’t have quite the intelligence of the comedy in Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, there are enough moments to keep you engaged with what is essentially a sci-fi road-trip comedy. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t seem to meet the strengths we are used to with a Pegg and Frost film, or a Greg Mottola comedy. All the right parts are there in theory and the cast hold the film together but, considering its R rating, it too often plays on the side of dumb rather than really trying to be anything interesting or clever. Never quite meeting its potential but remaining enjoyable, Paul is a fun watch but feels that in aiming for too wide an audience, Pegg and Frost have lost some of their magic. — Charlotte