Directed by Greg Mottola, Written by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, 100 minutes, Rated R.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
It’s high time for Hollywood’s geeks these days. With studios pouring thousands of dollars into fanboy appeasement, it’s safe to say that the inmates are now happily running the asylum.
“Paul” is the product of this practice, but, because of its obvious Fanboy pandering, probably won’t speak to everyone. The Sci-fi fun and highly referential humor will make genre fans feel right at home, leaving the vast majority of moviegoers feeling a bit, well, alienated. “Paul” is a love letter to the Spielberg '80s, but slightly misses the sentiment that made the period such a hit.
On a trip to Comic-Con and America’s top UFO hotspots, Graeme and Clive (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), have a close encounter with a crude little green man named Paul (Seth Rogen). After escaping a nearby military base, Paul heads to meet his Alien friends and asks Graeme and Clive to help him get to his ship before the FBI (Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Jo Lo Trugilo) tracks him down.
The plot to “Paul” might seem familiar, because it is -- this Christ-like alien on a race to his spaceship was popular stuff in the '80s, starting with film’s prime influence “E.T.” Its close parody of such a popular film seems like easy fodder for the masses, but Pegg and Frost’s characters and script might be too involved in geek culture to connect with them.
That’s not to say they won’t enjoy it. Rogen offers his everyman persona to an otherworldly character -- and it works like a charm. He infuses his character with every bit of Seth Rogen-ness that viewers have embraced in recent years. Rogen’s foul mouth and slacker attitude make Paul something entirely his own. Most importantly, his laid back style keeps Paul funny, approachable, and a joy to watch.
Pegg and Frost may pander to fanboys, but their heartfelt chemistry makes their strange journey a believable one. Like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” before it, their dough-eyed friendship and loyalty to it carries the film’s emotional weight, and as they set off with the likes of Kristen Wiig, playing a converted religious fanatic, their lack of growth may not turnoff non-geeks in the theater. However, a couple of 30-something comic book geeks aren’t as relatable as, say, children and their alien friend.
“Paul” might not connect with everyone, but it’s certainly funny and heartfelt enough to please those brave enough to see it. But given that high-concept, R-Rated comedies struggle at the box office, it seems destined for a cult following rather than a legion of converted geeks.