Written By: Ken Hulsey
Last night I was treated to an advanced screening of the movie "Paul" at the Irvine Spectrum hosted by Universal Pictures. As you probably already know, my wife and I are huge fans of both Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and the films "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" so my expectations for "Paul" were set very high.
I am happy to report that those expectations were both met and surpassed.
In my opinion both "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" are both modern classics so the big question on is "how does 'Paul' stand up in comparison?"
Of the three "Paul" is the funniest hands down, and I say that without hesitation. The gags and pop culture references in the film are none stop and if you are fan of both Pegg and Frost you should be out of your seat and on the floor rolling.
Is it low-brow humor? Yes, in its purest form.
At it's basic level Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have essentially taken the Tarnatino (Quentin) approach with "Paul" and mashed up an unrelenting parade of popular movie references and quotes. For most film makers this could spell disaster, but director Greg Mottola (Superbad) managed to put the whole soup together flawlessly.
"Paul" is easily "Jay and Silent Bob" meets "E.T." meets "Spaced" (a 1999 UK comedy series that Pegg both wrote and starred in alongside Frost). It's the ultimate "geek" movie plain and simple with homages to "Star Wars", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "The X-Files", Indiana Jones", "Star Trek" and surprisingly the often misunderstood 1980 fantasy film "Xanadu" which if you remember starred Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly.
The film opens in the United States in 1947, with a dog named Paul scratching to be let outside, where the sky is covered in eerie lights. When his owner, a young girl, lets him out, he is crushed by a crash landing spaceship. The girl pulls an alien (Seth Rogen) from the wreckage, and names him Paul. He is taken away by the Government and held prisoner for 60 years. He eventually decides to escape from his holding place, Area 51.
Two English comic book nerds named Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) have travelled to America for the annual Comic-Con convention and to visit all the sites of major extraterrestrial importance. On the way to their second site, they stop off at a café, where two hunters confront them. As they hurriedly leave, they reverse into the hunters' car, leaving a dent. At the next site, they see a car blasting towards them and, believing it to be the hunters, they speed off in their RV. Eventually, the car catches up, and they realize that it is not the hunters. As it overtakes, it speeds off the road, rolls several times, and comes to a halt in a field. The two shocked men get out to investigate. When they realize that the vehicle is empty and begin phoning the emergency services, they hear a voice saying 'I shouldn't do that if I were you'. They turn around, and a little grey alien comes into view, smoking a cigarette, and tells Clive to put the phone down. Clive faints, and Paul, introducing himself, explains to Graeme that he is on the run and needs their help. Graeme agrees to let him come. When Clive wakes up, he is not happy about the idea, but is eventually brought around.
Along the way, they are forced to take with them a Christian named Ruth (Kristen Wiig), who, until Paul shows her his memories, believes that there is nothing outside Earth and that God created humans. When he shatters her faith in Christianity, she suddenly becomes eager to 'sin', which she was not allowed to do before by her controlling father, who pursues them. She initially doesn't trust Paul, but to prove himself trustworthy, he heals her eye, as she has been blind in it since the age of four. The whole way, three secret agents, apparently eager to kill Paul under orders from a woman over the radio, have tailed them.
After a while, Paul decides to return to the girl whose dog he crashed his ship on and who subsequently saved his life, who is now an old woman, Tara Walton (Blythe Danner). She turns her gas cooker on but never gets round to doing anything with it, because they are interrupted by the agents. As the motley crew drives off with Paul, one of the agents shoots at them, and the gas ignites, destroying the house. Another agent catches up with them but drives off a bridge and is apparently killed.
By this time, Paul has revealed that his people are ready to pick him up, and he is heading to the rendezvous. When they get there, they set off a signal and wait. Eventually, eerie orange lights show up over the surrounding trees, and everyone believes that it is Paul’s race. However, it is an army helicopter, with 'the Big Guy' (Sigourney Weaver) on board, who is actually the woman commanding the three agents. As she and three troops backing her up move to shoot Paul, the third agent, Lorenzo Zoil (Jason Bateman), who turns out to be working for Paul, bursts out of the trees and takes out the men, but is shot in the shoulder. Tara knocks out 'the big guy', but Ruth's father Moses (John Carroll Lynch) appears with a shotgun and shoots Graeme dead. Paul heals him, but inflicts the damage to himself (a possible side effect of his healing powers mentioned earlier in the film). Paul then collapses, exhausted. For a while, the other characters stand around his apparently lifeless body sprawled on the grass. Then, coughing, Paul props himself up, having healed himself. 'The big guy' regains consciousness, but she is almost immediately crushed by an alien ship. Paul leaves in the ship, and takes Tara with him.During the credits, Graeme, Clive and Ruth are shown two years later, again at a comic convention, promoting their new mega-successful comic book, "Paul".
The cast for "Paul" is very solid with both Pegg and Frost delivering the type of gags that made both "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" two of the greatest comedies of all time. Though I am not a big fan of Seth Rogen he did an excellent job acting as the voice of the lovable pot smoking alien Paul. Other standouts include Jason Bateman as the hard nosed government agent Zoil and Kristen Wiig as the Bible thumping Ruth Buggs who breaks free from her religious shackles and falls for Graeme.
Is "Paul" one of the greatest comedies ever? Undoubtedly, though I wouldn't rank it up there with either "Blazing Saddles" or "The Blues Brothers". I would have to rank it in the top ten ....... maybe even the top five.
Yes, the film is that good!
Readers of MIN will really enjoy this one on all levels. There are tons of references to films and TV series that only reel movie buffs will get, which may not work for some people, but for true fans of the sci fi and fantasy genre it serves as a perfect homage to everything they covet.
"Pau"l is absolutely a "must see" and will undoubtedly go down as another classic from the creative duo of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg!
See Also: Univerasl Picks Up the Tab For PAUL Roadtrip / Shaun of the Dead - Bash 'Em In The Head - T-Shirt / Celluloid Philosophers - Shaun / Hot Fuzz (2007)(Rogue Pictures) / Star Trek (2009)(Paramount) / Pegg Makes His Portrayal Of Scotty A Tribute To Doohan / Simon Pegg Reaches Out To Star Trek Fans / Has Simon Pegg Burned His Star Wars Bridge? / Is Edgar Wright Planning A Gorgo Remake? / Pegg, Wright, And Frost Set To Cause The Worlds End