Written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Paul sucks upon the Spielberg/Lucas tit until all the milk and laughs have run dry – and then it keeps on sucking for good measure. Amusing although a little too long, there’s no denying that Paul is a geeked-out retelling of Spielberg’s E.T. as seen through the eyes of the Superbad generation. Adult in language and humor, Paul offers a fun time of science fiction lampooning and movie-quoting as two geeks profess their love for the alien genre of filmmaking – just don’t expect the same level of wittiness previously seen in Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz.
Fresh from San Diego’s Comic-Con, two childhood friends, Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost), decide to take a road trip across America in search for everything – including alien-themed milkshakes - extraterrestrial. A freak road-side accident causes them to run into a real alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who takes them on a real Spielbergian-type adventure, complete with secret agents (armed with guns and not walkie-talkies, thank you very much revisionists) Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio.
Led by Jason Bateman and directed by an angry Sigourney Weaver known as “Big Guy”, the FBI Agents are hell-bent on capturing Paul. Soon enough, the trio of space-aged men-children are accompanied on their journey to Devil’s Tower National Park (ala Close Encounters of the Third Kind) by a starry-eyed Christian bible-thumper Kristen Wiig who gets her world view expanded by the presence of Paul and the chase that ensues.
The main issue with the film is that neither Pegg nor Frost has their comedic mojo working throughout Paul. It’s certainly enjoyable to see them work their inner geek-factor at Comic Con, but – other than being fluent in Klingon – the two just aren’t firing on all thrusters. Sadly, our dynamic duo just isn’t all that funny this time around. The situations – including Jane Lynch as a big-haired waitress and David Koechner as a homophobic hillbilly – are funny, but our heroes (while they do have chemistry) just don’t play well together. And, let’s face it, this is material they should do wonders with. They don’t.
Maybe in part to its broad approach in its humor, the real shocker is how well Paul is voiced (and how he looks). Rogen is the brightest part of the movie. Never grating and always amusing, this dick-and-balls obsessed alien is certainly – quite surprisingly - a sentient being of charm and hilarity. Touching and obscene, Paul is everything ET wasn’t – including a bad driver and a pot smoker – yet, has the same alien appeal.
Directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland), Paul certainly has that Spielberg circa 1980’s cinematic appeal down. In fact, several times throughout the movie I thought Mottola had slipped scenes from E.T., Sugarland Express and Close Encounters into his movie. Spielberg even has a small voice cameo for the movie which suggests Paul gave Spielberg the idea for E.T.. This is all handled well enough, but for cinephiles expecting more – which they should from this comedic team – their time might be better served checking out the Lucas-obsessed Fanboys instead.
Paul is a good idea…for awhile. It simply isn’t as clever as it needs to be in order to fill its entire running time. While there is a great mannequin scene in a comic book shop, too many times the film dips in its comedic level and comes up with scenes of silly dancing to Marvin Gaye and confessions that Bob Dylan is dead – killed by a super secret stash of military-grade weed. Yeah, it's as unfunny as that in the context of the movie.
While Paul is enjoyable, it’s certainly not the wit-fueled sc-fi bonanza of awesomeness I was expecting it to be. Spielberg and Lucas (and Cameron) references abound – at times, annoyingly so – still there’s a part of me that wonders what Edgar Wright would have done with the material. That same part of me, while I love Mottola’s work and I like what he’s done here, has a sneaking suspicion that Paul would have been greatly improved with the complete trinity at work, rather than two stars that, obviously, enjoyed loving the alien.
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, and some drug use.
Director: Greg Mottola
Writer: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
Cast: Simon Pegg; Nick Frost; Seth Rogen; Kristen Wiig; Mia Stallard; Jeffrey Tambor
Memorable Movie Quote: "*Why* does everyone always assume that? What am I doing? Am I harvesting farts? How much can I learn from an ass? "
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Tagline: Who's up for a close encounter?
Official Site: www.whatispaul.com
Release Date: March 18, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date: August 9, 2011
Plot Synopsis: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite for the comedy adventure Paul as two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage takes them to America’s UFO heartland. While there, they accidentally meet an alien who brings them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever.
For the past 60 years, an alien named Paul (Seth Rogen) has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. For reasons unknown, the space-traveling smart ass decides to escape the compound and hop on the first vehicle out of town—a rented RV containing Earthlings Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost).
Chased by federal agents and the fanatical father of a young woman that they accidentally kidnap, Graeme and Clive hatch a fumbling escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship. And as two nerds struggle to help, one little green man might just take his fellow outcasts from misfits to intergalactic heroes
Available on Blu-ray - August 9, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy; DVD copy; BD-Live; D-Box; Mobile features
Playback: Region A
Universal's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer looks as shiny as Paul’s spacecraft. It’s a near-perfect representation of director Mottola and cinematographer Lawrence Sher’s sci-fi intentions. Aged to perfection, the yellow sheen that coats the look of the film is ripe with nostalgia. Colors are true and crisp and black levels are strong. The edge details are rich and add texture to the happenings that its weaker-than-expected on-screen comedy. The sound is vibrant and fully realized with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that brings a good sonic field to the film experience. Dialogue is never lost to the background and, in spite of the occasional drop in texture (note: the weakly fielded Comic-Con beginning), the immersive field of sound is one of the delights to the blu-ray experience.
- Located only on the Theatrical Version of the film, the commentary track is a fun ride through the joke-riddled atmosphere provided by director Greg Mottola, producer Nira Park, and actors Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Bill Hader. To be expected, the team rarely lets a moment to razzle each other and those absent among them throughout the commentary. While completely enjoyable, it should be noted that the team is often off subject with each and every joke and a lot of the film’s production details get lost to laughter…yours included.
Universal usually does their comedies right on HD with an abundance of special features and gag reels. Paul is no different. The 40-minute documentary, which features interviews with the rather (and weirdly enough) subdued cast, is interesting and gets things started with detailed promise. There are eight featurettes (“RV Doorway: The Cast of Paul On-Location," "Runway Santa Fe: An Interview with Nancy Steiner," "Smithereens," "5th Date Level Direction: The Cast on Greg Mottola," "Mexico Zero: The Locations of Paul," "The Many Pauls," "Paul the Musical" and "The Traveler Beagle”) housed inside the next documentary and an extra special blooper real and several featurettes that focus on Paul’s stunning FX work.
- Between the Lightning Strikes: The Making of ‘Paul’ (40 min)
- Eight BTS Featurettes (63 min)
- "RV Doorway: The Cast of Paul On-Location"
- "Runway Santa Fe: An Interview with Nancy Steiner"
- "5th Date Level Direction: The Cast on Greg Mottola"
- "Mexico Zero: The Locations of Paul"
- "The Many Pauls"
- "Paul the Musical"
- "The Traveler Beagle”
- The Evolution of Paul (15 min)
- Who the Hell is Adam Shadowchild? (2 min)
- Bloopers (11 min)
- Simon's Silly Faces (1 min)
- Trailers & TV Spots