Movie Review: Paul (2011)
Summary: Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.
After a short and suggestively dramatic opening, the mood changes from serious to silly when we meet our two geeks, “Graeme Willy” (Simon Pegg) and “Clive Gollings” (Nick Frost). Both are the second and third-row-down men of the hour next to our main man, the alien who calls himself “Paul” (Seth Rogen, voice).
At a sci-fi conference outside of Area 51, Graeme and Clive are vacationing from the UK when they run into Paul trying to flee from the government. Paul needs a ride. The trio escape in an RV and become outright fugitives, this after having to look over their shoulders for two homophobic bar-frequenters they met before the whole ordeal began. They are pursued by “Agent Zoil” (Jason Bateman) and “O’Reilly” (John Lo Truglio) with his partner, “Haggard” (Bill Hader).
At an RV rest stop, they run across “Ruth Buggs” (Kristen Wiig), a super-religious girl and her even more religious father, “Moses Buggs” (John Carroll Lynch). Moses is a very stable individual who carries a shotgun in hand with his bible. No surprise that neither he, nor she believe in aliens, not when she wears a t-shirt that has a picture of Jesus shooting Charles Darwin for the crime of heresy.
And this, friends, is the stuff of good parody. Everything – from E.T. to bible-thumping fundamentalists, and from faceless villains in classic movies to the unsurpassable geekdom of sci-fi nerds and crazy UFOlogists – is made into a thoroughly humorous adventure.
It’s a perverted remake of ET, it is. But by golly, it goes beyond parody, with carefulness and keen direction that its subject matter hardly deserves.
Seeing our two main men re-enact the classic “Gorn the Lizard Man vs. Captain Kirk” fight scene from the “Arena” episode of the original Star Trek who then scurry off after being spotted by people who have lives is plainly hysterical—more so than Bateman’s or Hader’s very complimentary styles of humor, and more so than seeing Sigourney Weaver doing the fieldwork her agents can’t get done in wielding a handgun that is almost as big as the small extraterrestrial himself.
This swear-happy and irreverently themed sci-fi roaster takes any – and damn near everything that has to do with space aliens – and makes awesome fun of it. Stories of alien abduction followed by claims of anal probing deserve such a beating. And a short little alien who prefers to wear pants and has perfect social graces and great pop culture knowledge…who would think to prop that up? Paul even claims credit for creating the character “Fox Mulder” from the X-files.
Another laughable element: These geeks are so wrapped up in their sci-fi that when they meet a factual instead of fictional alien, they have no words and few questions. This says everything about their lack of interest in the real world (and is yet another slam against those who choose to live in fantasy instead of reality)—even when what they want is put before them, they are afraid to come to grips. Hilarious, I say. Subtlety hilarious.
The director of Superbad brings us Paul, a surprisingly funny story of alien abduction in reverse, with great CGI. Seth Rogen wasn’t the best choice for the voice of Paul, but that doesn’t take from nearly two hours of sci-fi dorkdom being put on trial in this kangaroo court of sexually charged jokes and shenanigans. Just keep the fundamentalist Christians at home. They won’t want to see it.
Grade: A- (4 stars)
Rated: R (for language, violence, drug use, and thematic sexuality)
Director: Greg Mottola
Starring: Seth Rogen “Paul” (voice), Jane Lynch “Pat Stevenson,” Simon Pegg “Graeme Willy,” Sigourney Weaver “Voice,” Jason Bateman “Special Agent Lorenzo Zoil,” Kristen Wiig “Ruth Buggs,” Bill Hader “Haggard,” Nick Frost “Clive Gollings,” Blythe Danner “Tara Walton,” Jeffrey Tambor “Adam Shadowchild,” Jesse Plemons “Jake,” David Koechner “Gus,” John Carroll Lynch “Moses Buggs”
Genre: Comedy / Sci-Fi