Whether you call yourself a geek, nerd or fanboy, the comic book reading, sci-fi/fantasy, superhero movie loving group has been elevated in status over the last decade. It seems more people have begun to embrace it and many people are getting an eye opening awakening towards the fact that a lot of this material isn’t just for kids. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, who also wrote the film, certainly try to embrace this group but routinely go for the low brow jokes, juvenile humor and ass-grabbing. I for one do enjoy all those jokes but that humor is a lot more fun hanging out with my buddies than it is when seen as been-there-done-that crude humor on the big screen. There were certainly some funny gags in Paul but too much good talent was wasted in this film.
The movie starts with the two sci-fi nerds attending the San Diego Comic-Con. While they’re originally from England, our two heroes Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are here on holiday. As Comic-Con was just the first stop of their dream trip across America, they proceed to visit so called ‘alien hot spots’ like Area 51 and Roswell while travelling in an RV. In the very beginning of the film, we are treated to lots of convention culture nods (slave Princess Leia, standing in line for autographs, etc). Add in the fact that Clive is a science fiction writer and Graeme is his artist, and you start to get a picture of who these guys are.
While on the road, they encounter an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who is on the run from the “Big Guy”. Paul manages to enlist them on his mission to head home. Little do they know though, they are being chased by FBI agents (both the straight laced and the moronic varieties), hillbilly homophobes and a religious zealot. Making matters more complicated is Ruth (Kristen Wiig), a young lady that they encounter on their journey with whom Graeme becomes immediately smitten with.
Frost/Pegg’s previous comedies, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, were both a lot of fun. The absence of director Edgar Wright here was sorely missed as I think he was a big part of what made the two aforementioned films so great. With Paul, things just feel a bit less exciting. The dialogue certainly has its moments but it lacks the snappy interplay between the two main characters that we saw in their previous films. The movie is loaded with pop culture references, mainly towards George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and their movies but there are so many that it can completely take you out of the movie if you focus on spotting them all. The film concentrates so hard on this and endearing itself to geek culture that it simply forgets to tell an enjoyable story and capitalize on its own moments and not those of other movies.
The funniest parts of Pegg and Frost’s previous film together are their interaction and playing off one another. That just doesn’t happen here. As much as they are on screen together, they rarely react to each other, instead taking cues from Paul or the many other off the wall characters that come in and out of their lives. When they do have those moments, someone else enters and the joke quickly devolves into the two being assumed to be gay. Speaking of reaction, Seth Rogen recorded his voice work separately and other actors did the stand-in work for where Paul was on screen. Due to this, the back and forth between Rogen, Frost and Pegg does lack and it seems a bit off.
Personally I felt that Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen were the funniest of the bunch but some of the small cameos were great as well. Highlights include Jane Lynch, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio whom make the best with the roles they have. As for Jason Bateman, he seems to be miscast as the stern FBI agent but he comes close to making it work towards the end of the movie.
At the end of it all, I think many fans will accept this movie more for what it stands for than what it actually brings to the table. For its loving embrace of fanboy culture, fun cameos and CGI greatness. It has its moments but sadly, it’s just not all it’s cracked up to be.
For its loving embrace of fanboy culture, Paul has its moments. But sadly, it's just not all it's cracked up to be.