A little green alien called Paul (voice of Seth Rogan) has been locked up in a top-secret US military base for 60 years, advising world leaders and others about things alien. Fearing he's outlived his usefulness, he makes a break for it and ends up on a lonely stretch of road in America's secretive Area 51. By happy chance, his path crosses comic book geeks Graeme and Clive (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) - who are on a road trip visiting UFO sighting sites and THE most likely to rescue and harbor an alien on the run.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With all the droll Englishness of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost school of comedy, Paul is the lads' answer to Steven Spielberg's ET - with Spielberg making a brief vocal appearance, just to show there are no hard feelings. Nor could there be with such a larrikin bunch of characters, who end up on the road to a mysterious meeting place for aliens.
First, a warning to genteel elderly aunts who may offer to take the nieces and nephews along for a Sunday afternoon movie with a sweet family film about a cute alien befriended by two nerds. Take your ear plugs; the language is not family friendly. But it's used as a tool for comedy - and it is funny.
The very English working class antiheroes Graeme and Clive (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) are in the US for a comics convention, and have hired a self-drive caravan affair to go on and visit the famous sites of UFO sightings and other weird happening - all hushed up by the US authorities of course. It's on this road trip they come across the tiny alien (readers best discover the exact circumstances in the movie) and agree to give him a ride north - towards his special destination.
First stop - in the vicinity of Area 51, famed for its UFO sightings - is the opportunistically named motel, Little A'Le'Inn, selling all kinds of 'alien' merchandise, a chance for some visual humour. There is more of it all along the way.
The trip is also filled with incident; my favourite is their meeting trailer park manager's daughter Ruth (Kristen Wiig), whose bible bashing father Moses Buggs (John Carroll Lynch) has brainwashed her into the creationist notion of the universe. Her T shirt has Jesus shooting Darwin in the head with the tagline, 'Evolve this!' This gives the writers an opportunity to do serious satirical damage to the Godfearing faithful and leads to Ruth's conversion - and to the resulting comedy unleashed by her new freedom; "You mean I can kiss and cuss and fornicate?" And she revels in it, especially the 'cussing'.
But this bit of atheistic fun is just a taste: the film creates its own, entirely plausible world, in which Paul's personality traits (and smoking habits) are not too far removed from that of his voice persona, Seth Rogen. As they had for the secret meeting place Paul wants to reach, we learn how Paul (after crash landing 60 years onto a dog named Paul in a remote field) has been advising the world from a secret bunker. But he was no guest, he was a prisoner, he says by way of explanation as to why he's escaped. Very soon, he would be cut up by the scientists for closer inspection. He'd rather not wait around.
Of course, Paul has some unearthly powers, including the ability to heal (hilariously demonstrated with a bird killed in a collision with their car) and to transfer his thoughts and knowledge, all of it, to a human. This also has comic possibilities, all well used.
The excellent topline support cast includes Bill Hader and Joe Le Truglio as offbeat, odd couple State Troopers, Jane Lynch as a blonde diner waitress, and Blythe Danner as the grown up girl who lost her dog Paul in disastrous, eye-boggling circumstances all those years ago.
Throw in some rednecks, Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) of the secret service under the command of The Big Guy - played with ferocious dedication by Sigourney Weaver - and you end up with a concoction that has enough steam (and enough ideas) to keep going for the entire length of the film. Right up to the climactic and funny and moving final sequence.
If it's escapist fun you want, just go with Paul.
First published in the Sun-Herald
Review by Louise Keller:
Goofball but not gormless, there's something refreshing about Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's style of comedy. It ambles along harmlessly and with great simplicity until we somehow get into their mindset and rhythms and start giggling at the sheer charm of it all. Paul is one such film. It's a road movie, a buddy movie, a chase movie and a sci-fi spoof, all rolled into one hilarious madcap adventure.
Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) play nerdy sci-fi comic book geeks all set to do a UFO site tour in a rented RV in San Diego. The early scenes at Comic-Con and the low key humour involving gay jokes and Clive's restless bladder are come-çi come-ça, but the story kicks in when Paul the alien (voice of Seth Rogen) with the powers of invisibility, suddenly appears on the side of the road after a car crash and hitches a ride with the pair. The circumstances of this all-important scene are not shown as clearly as I would have liked, which means it took me longer to be swept into 'the zone' of the crazy situation that evolves.
But by the time the duo and their alien friend park at Pearly Gates Caravan Park, I was well on-board, so to speak. That's where Ruth (Kristen Wiig) joins the team, going from a downtrodden, devout Christian fanatic (wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Jesus shooting Darwin) to a cursing Darwinist with a free spirit. She also provides the love-interest for Graeme, whose awkwardness is self-evident.
The delights of the film lie in the incongruous relationship between Graeme, Clive and Paul. Scenes by the camp fire smoking weed and dancing as the sausages burn on the barbeque have their own eccentric humour. There are some lovely touches - like the scene in which Paul (in flashback) gives Steven Spielberg advice and Blythe Danner is effective in a cameo as the girl who befriended ET a lifetime ago. Agent Mulder seems to have also been Paul's idea and Lorenzo's Oil gets a mention, too. There are also funny references to the anal probe, which all aliens are supposed to want to do - and this brings several laughs.
I like the way all these ingredients are managed with a light touch, nor is there anything heavy handed about Greg Mottola's direction. The added dynamic of Jason Bateman's Agent Zoil hotly in pursuit (together with the two useless State Troupers) adds to the tension and there's an inspired treat when the identity of Zoil's boss 'Big Guy' is eventually revealed.
Pegg and Frost are such likeable characters that we easily warm to them. As for Paul - it is credit to Rogen and the masters of special effects who created the misshapen little green man with an oversize head, gigantic almond eyes and quirky sense of humour that we are captivated under his spell. Just like the film.
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SIMON PEGG & NICK FROST INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
CAST: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jason Bateman, Mia Stallard, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Blythe Danner, Joe Lo Truglio, John Carroll Lynch, David Koechner, Sigourney Weaver, Jeremy Owen, Jeffrey Tambor, Jennifer Granger, with Steven Spielberg
VOICES: Seth Rogan
PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park
DIRECTOR: Greg Mottola
SCRIPT: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lawrence Sher
EDITOR: Chris Dickens
MUSIC: David Arnold
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jefferson Sage
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 14, 2011