Why does everyone always assume that? What am I doing? Am I harvesting farts?
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost boldly go where everyone else has gone before…
It’s hard to dislike Paul, a nice enough trip down a familiar road that, nevertheless, leaves the feeling that out of the talent they’ve assembled they should have made more out of this material.
Paul follows two British comic book geeks Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost), who are travelling across America to explore the various UFO sites the Midwest offers.
One night, they meet an alien (the title character voiced by Seth Rogen) fleeing from Area 51 and agree to help him the rest of the way home. Chased by federal agents and the fanatical father of a young woman that they accidentally kidnap (Kristen Wiig), Graeme and Clive hatch an escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship.
There’s very little oomph to the proceedings, at least not in a manner that we haven’t seen before. Paul is indebted to its filmic ancestors (Close Encounters, E.T., Aliens) and there’s a timidity about the film in that it doesn’t try to be something new, just old and familiar.
In that sense it’s a celebration of the sci-fi genre but watching it you’re thinking of better, more enjoyable films to past the time with. As a pair Graeme and Clive are your stereotypical fish out of water and they bring a child-like enthusiasm to the film’s first half, but that approach makes for an underwhelming first half hour.
It’s not helped by weak gags either. The mistaking Graeme and Clive for a gay couple feels like a lazy stereotype. The film feels devoid of any sort of comic inspiration.
There’s so much talent in front of the camera – Bill Hader, Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Jane Lynch – and some talent behind it, which makes the flat tone so surprising. So it’s with a glad welcome that Wiig’s Ruth Buggs gives the film a lift enlivens as a devout Christian who has her faith shaken by the existence of Paul. She’s naive, innocent and ignorant, but falls into the same generic trap by becoming a love interest.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect (among a multitude) is the title character itself. He’s foul-mouthed, rude and the CG is impressive. Beyond that he’s not interesting. Rogen’s voice is a little distracting too.
There are a few emotional touches here and there, but they’re ineffective; a shadow of Pegg’s and Frost’s more interesting genre work before this film. Thankfully the film livens up for its final third, a case of too little to late.
Paul is ok. An amalgamation of different films that it never rises above. It’s a celebration of geek cinema, a homage to films that have inspired many others. It works as a momentary diversion, though you’ll remember this film with as fond a memory.