Film review #569
Director: Greg Mottola
SYOPSIS: Graeme and Clive are two nerds attending Comic-con. On their road trip towards Area 51, they come across an actual alien named Paul, who is on the run from the authorities that have been holding him. Graeme and Clive end up helping Paul to get to the spaceship that is waiting to pick him up, and in doing so, end up getting chased by a number of people that they have annoyed in the process…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Paul is a 2011 sci-fi comedy film. Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Graeme Willie and Clive Gollings, two British nerds and sci-fi artists/writers who are attending San Diego Comic-Con. Being alien fanatics, they take a trip out into the Nevada desert to the sites of Area 51 and the Roswell incident. On the road along the way, they come across an alien named Paul, who is being chased by the authorities after he escaped their custody, and is on his way to meeting a spaceship to pick him up and return home. Thus begins a buddy road trip film that plays out pretty much how you would expect: with plenty of laughs, silliness, and some heartfelt moments too. It’s clearly meant to appeal to a more casual filmgoer, but there’s a decent amount of quick references that more avid fans will pick up on. The story offers few surprises, but you don’t really notice because the film instead offers some quickfire comedy and solid momentum that keeps things rolling. It has a feel of Blue Brothers in parts in the sense that it builds into a chase film that has enough chaotic energy to bring all the characters together and make something interesting.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as always, play the leads with good chemistry, and Seth Rogen as the alien Paul offers a character with enough gravitas and presence that contrasts with Pegg and Frost, but very much like a typical Seth Rogen character. It feels like his character is meant to be a lot more crude, but is perhaps toned down to make the film more mainstream, with only a bit of an edge. Even though Paul is obviously CG, he is still animated and expressive, and his interactions with the cast feel natural, which is a solid plus for the film. The supporting cast are very typical characters, but again, for the casual film viewer, play a part well, and you know what their role is very clearly and quickly.
Paul is a film that works with very broad strokes: it’s comedy is quick and energetic, the story is condensed and easy to follow, and the characters have good chemistry. However, going any deeper you find an awful lot missing that is needed to make the film more memorable and gripping. It feels like the film was conceived with these very broad stroke, and little was done refining this underneath the premise. It plays it safe in the sense that it clearly needs to appeal to a mainstream audience (apparently this is what the funding for the film was based on), and so any smarter references or parodying other science-fiction works is reduced to easily missed one liners that don’t disrupt the flow of the film. The film is still lots of fun, even if you’re not a fan of the crude (but never too crude) humour. It could have been a lot more, but what we have is good enough for an entertaining ride.