Copyright MainstreamMatt/Mainstream 2005-2011
As well as being a road movie in the “grand old tradition” of that American sub-genre that just happens to feature a pot-smoking alien designed in the “grand old tradition” of Area 51 aesthetics, Paul could prove to be alienating to an audience outside of the geek clique of Pegg and Frost collaborations.
Openly pitched as “a love letter to Spielberg”, Paul is also a glorious ode to any cineliterate viewer who would know their xenomorph from their endoskeleton, and would chuckle at lines such as “no Boomer, its forbidden”. There are so many nods and winks that it should come with a viewing compendium.
This shouldn’t put off the casual viewer though; Pegg n Frost’s script still probes at your funny bone more than it misses it, even if the absence of the third leg of their tripod (that’s a War of the Worlds reference), Edgar Wright is sadly evident.
Mottola can handle the comedy and characters, Superbad and Adventureland proved that, he just lacks the visual flourishes and narrative control that would have benefitted Paul’s breakneck paced chase-movie plot.
As for the story, it centres on Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost), two geeks returning from their Comic-Con Mecca, friends who are styled in the same mould as their previous buddy-buddy incarnations, and visiting notorious abduction sites in their clap-trap Winnebago. Despite their predilection for anything Extra-Terrestrial, the last thing they expect is little green man, Paul (Seth Rogen), to coerce them into assisting his escape from the Man in Black (Jason Bateman) in an effort to phone home. Throw in blunts, stunts, and some colourful language, and you have a movie that’s seemingly leapt from your 80’s childhood.
There is a lot to love here; the poster-boy bromance is a given, Pegg and Frost have their chemistry finely honed in a way that very few double-acts can consistently manage without it growing tiresome. Kristin Wiig is finally given more to do than her admittedly funny staccato shtick, her character is key to the atheistic diatribe that runs throughout the film, but is never offensive, asking you to question faith rather than quash it.
None of this would have worked had the CGI character of Paul been botched, so it comes as a pleasant surprise that Rogen injects him with genuine warmth amidst the toilet humour and geek-pleasing gags (his Predator is a doozie); case in point is a touching exchange with Blythe Danner’s former close encounter victim that threatens to become a homage to ET’s best lip quivering moments.
There are a few too many threads that Mottola can’t quite knit together (this review hasn’t even mentioned the brilliance of Jeffrey Tambor) into a coherent comedy which adds to the hit n miss nature of proceedings, but when the highs are the Alien Queen herself, Sigourney Weaver, giving the beat down to Simon Pegg then you’ll take the odd probe gag. And if neither of those propositions appeals to you then you should go and rent Mac & Me.