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For fans of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the question that will linger in your mind as you exit Paul is, ĎWhat would this have been had Edgar Wright directed it?í  Indeed, it is hard to imagine writers/stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost doing any project together without the third in their comedy troika.  The good news about Paul is that itís funny; the bad news is that it could have been funnier, but the bad news really isnít so bad.

Graeme and Clive are childhood pals living out their dream:  The pair is in sunny California surrounded by Stormtroopers, Ewoks, Star Trekís Gom and scantily-clad slave girl Princess Leias.  They have entered the Geek Eden known as the San Diego Comic Con, a.k.a. Nerd Paradise.  Accepted there as nowhere else, the friends take their ambitions even farther and in a good old American Winnebago, set out across the Southwest to tour all the sites alleged to have been visited by extraterrestrial life.  For all their years of imagining and writing stories about creatures from outer space, nothing could prepare the two Brits for the visitor that comes hurtling down in front of them in a flaming car crash.  The diminutive critter is exactly the bulb-headed, giant eyed, green-skinned character the people of the late twentieth century have always associated with aliens.  What Graeme and Clive couldnít have expected was this creatureís understanding of humanity and all its quirks and his exceeding grasp of the English language -- particularly its swear words.  It turns out the ET with the unlikely name of Paul is a terrible driver; having crashed his space ship into the earth over sixty years ago.  Heís spent every day since in a military facility in -- you guessed it -- Area 51.  Only a handful of people have ever been allowed to know of the visitorís existence which has been pretty boring except for writing the occasional screenplay (- and gifting it to Steven Spielberg), listening to Marvin Gaye and taking advantage of the militaryís finest narcotics.  With differing degrees of acceptance, the duo agree to help the alien on the lam and chauffeur the green fella up north to a rendezvous that will finally send Paul home.  The problem with the whole running away thing is that it usually means thereís something to run away from.  Paulís keepers at Area 51 arenít so thrilled with his little excursion and even if they only plan to kill Paul and dissect him because theyíve learned all they can from him alive, they still want him back.  A team of secret service agents are dispatched to retrieve the alien under the scathing command of a womanís voice over their walkie talkies.  And because thatís not enough danger, an angry, bible-thumping father tracks the guys like a bloodhound after they recruit the manís naÔve daughter to their outlaw band.  Thereís also a vague threat from a pair of homophobic rednecks who havenít met enough Englishmen to understand the sound of the Gaydar siren going off when Graeme and Clive are near is just part of their DNA.

Paul is directed by Greg Mottola, who also helmed the excellent Superbad and episodes of both the underrated Undeclared and the brilliant Arrested Development.  Perhaps itís his time working under the aegis of Judd Apatow, but Mottola seems more attuned to the broader humour that Seth Rogen is associated with than the sharper, quicker-paced comedy weíve seen from Messrs. Pegg and Frost in their British features.  The scenes avant-alien, with the guys at Comic Con and on the road visiting an ET-friendly diner were funny due to their situations (- and Jane Lynch as a cheerful, big-haired waitress whoíd have fit perfectly in Pee Weeís Big Adventure) and not so much because of Pegg or Frost themselves.  Once Paul enters the picture thatís pretty much it for fans of the duoís proven onscreen chemistry.  The quality of the humour even dips a little; depending primarily on Paulís simultaneously wise and profane observances and the chase by the bumbling feds.  The storyís atheist slant became a bit tiresome, as well, despite the excellent Kristen Wiig as the Christian fundamentalist who refuses to regard science even with a real live alien from outer space standing right in front of her. Overall, a lighter touch and a little more cleverness wouldnít have been remiss, though it is great when the laughs do find their mark.  The actorsí interaction with the CG alien is seamless and the concept that a creature so fantastical and advanced turns out to be an easygoing, foul-mouthed vulgarian with a taste for Reeseís Pieces, road kill and soul music is a fun one.  The good time Pegg, Frost, Wiig Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and Sigourney Weaver are clearly having is infectious and brings much good will to the works.  The movie, packed full of geek-friendly references from the iconic Star Wars to the not-as-iconic Mac and Me, definitely has a loopy charm.  Certainly, Iíve seen worse alien-buddy-road-sci-fi comedies Ö hasnít everyone?

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

March 17th, 2011

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Universal Pictures)

 

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