DVD Review: British genre geeks Simon Pegg and Nick Frost team with Seth Rogen, Superbad director Greg Mottola, and cast full of comic talent for Paul—a glassy eyed space-alien road-trip romp. Cooked up with a meandering attitude, Paul wavers but still has plenty of “eh, why not?” laughs.
The R-rated Paul follows two British sci-fi geeks (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) on a post-ComicCon RV road trip to Southwestern United States UFO sites. They end up with a much closer encounter than they ever dreamed when they pick up a small gray space alien named Paul (a CGI concoction voiced by Seth Rogen). Turns out Paul’s a smoking, drinking, swearing, pants-wearing (whew!) Area-51 fugitive on the lam from the usual shadowy government agencies.
Naturally this rolling recreational vehicle of comic talent attracts more funny folks along the way, including Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Joe Lo Truglio as Men in Black on their tail, and Kristin Wiig as a sheltered Fundamentalist who experiences a Reverse Road to Damascus with the appropriately named alien. Also on hand are comedy VIPs such as Jeffery Tambor, Jane Lynch, and David Koechner.
First time around, Paul is takes a little hit on the expectations meter. After all, co-writers and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have earned mile-long geek cred for their work with director Edgar Wright: the so-called Ice Cream and Blood Films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. With Wright off making Scott Pilgrim last year, Pegg and Frost hand-picked Paul’s director Greg Mottola, whose Daytrippers, Superbad and Adventureland displayed a varied and deft touch with both humor and heart.
Fans of Pegg, Frost, and Mottola need to dial the giddiness back a bit for Paul—the resulting best-of-both-comedy-worlds mix isn’t peanut butter and chocolate greatness. It’s more like Gummi Bears and Lucky Charms—full of terrific, tasty bits, but melding into a gloopy mess with a slightly off texture.
But that’s all right—after all, Paul is most definitely a “slacker” comedy, where “slacker” is obvious code for “stoner.” And you know who’d go in with great gusto for a bowl of Gummi Bears and Lucky Charms? People who are very, very high.
“Slack” doesn’t just apply to Paul’s wise-cracking eponymous alien hero—the script, the direction, and a lot of the performances have a genuinely enjoyable “laid-back” feel, as if everything seemed like a good idea at the time. And if the probe humor, nice-girl-swearing humor, and beer and weed humor isn’t 100% consistent, eh don’t worry about it—they’ll getcha next scene.
Pegg and Frost have long since polished their easy peasy (greasy pasty) chemistry—their smart-dumb humor never feels forced or arch. Plus they’re real-life geeks who know their alien movies. (Sure E.T. gets a shout out and celebrity voice cameo, but so does Mac and Me.) They may make a gentle point about how we’re all aliens–British aliens, geek aliens, religious aliens, space-alien aliens–but they’re just as happy to make a fart or pee joke.
But it’s Rogen who gets the “save” for keeping Paul’s hit-and-miss comedic ratio on the happy side of “amusing.” Paul the film and Paul the Alien may be one-note jokes, but they’re jokes perfectly tailored for Rogen’s smart-aleck sloth.
Paul is one of those comedies that scores most of its humor (and lets some of its opportunities slip away) by not trying too hard. But that same slacker mentality also means it’s gets funnier and more lovable on repeated viewings.
Read my two-part interview with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as they talk about Paul (in part one) and then about all sorts of other stuff (in part two)
More from the cast of Paul at redbox:
- Simon Pegg in Star Trek and The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader on DVD and Blu-ray
- Nick Frost in Penelope
- Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet on DVD and Blu-ray
- Jason Bateman in The Switch
- Kristen Wiig in MacGruber on DVD and Blu-ray, and All Good Things
- Blythe Danner in Waiting for Forever, Meet the Parents, and Little Fockers on DVD and Blu-ray
- Bill Hader in Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil
- Sigourney Weaver in Cedar Rapids and You Again