Continuing the recent streak of films I covered panels for at last year’s Comic-Con comes a science fiction comedy like none other from the brains behind Hot Fuzz. Of course I’m talking about the aptly named film Paul. And E.T. thought he was special for having a feature named after himself. LOL. What I liked initially about this concept, besides the obvious, is the fact that this somehow all revolves around my favorite party every year, San Diego’s Comic-Con. Ah…memories…
Paul is directed by Greg Mottola and contains an out of this word ensemble cast with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, John Carroll Lynch and many more. Now come on! With a lineup like this, you know going in that you have to be in store for some laughs, no? If that’s not enough, then know this. The dynamic duo of Frost and Pegg also penned the script too. And if what I saw at Comic-Con last year (see here) is any indication of what I’m in store for heading into the press screening, then I’m anticipating walking out of the theater with a big a$$ smile on my face. So was I wrong? Absolutely not!
Because I was having a bad day, the pessimist in me wanted to hate this film. Initially I was not feeling it. It felt like the same stupid and dry humor I hated in Shaun of the Dead, but then something happened. That something was the introduction of Seth Rogen’s character, Paul. There’s no sugar coating the fact that the alien was rude and crude, but guess what? He actually has a heart. And personally, I think that is truly what makes this movie so special to me. I actually had a really good time with this one and I will definitely be bringing this home on Blu-ray Day #1, but I digress. Let’s spend a few minutes catching everyone up to speed with what they can expect from their theatrical experience of Paul.
Shortly after the start of the film, we are introduced to two English, for lack of a better term, comic book nerds named Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) who have travelled all the way to America for my favorite party of the year, Comic-Con, and to visit all the major extraterrestrial sites. Man, that sounds like my dream vacation. Anyway, while driving down the desert road, a car swerves and crashes in front of them. Naturally, curiosity gets the best of them and get out to explore the wreckage. That’s when they encounter an alien life form named Paul. Voiced by Seth Rogen, the swearing, sarcastic and cigarette smoking alien is too much at first for the boys to comprehend. Despite wanting this moment to happen their entire lives, and who wouldn’t, they were not prepared for this visitor. After recovering from their initial shock, the boys agree to help Paul. Like E.T., Paul was stranded here on our planet and all he really wants to do is get home.
It’s the getting home part that’s the conundrum/heart of the story here. Things won’t be easy for the three. Paul is just as much a road and buddy comedy as it is a science fiction one. Along the way, Graeme and Clive pick up a female love interest, make a few enemies and even manage to get tracked and hunted by the United States Secret Service, all the while driving a big RV. There are some great one liners and dry slapstick comedy throughout. You should have come to expect that from a Simon Pegg film by now. Shouldn’t you? However, the comedy for me was really hit or miss, and what really did me in was Paul. He kind of had me from the start when he first said hello from the darkness with a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Although he was CG in appearance, his onscreen warmth and compassion is what really made him a three-dimensional character that I truly cared about. You see, they could have made him rude and crude throughout, but they didn’t. And for that I’m grateful. It’s too bad I couldn’t have felt this way about Jar Jar Binks. I know as a guy I shouldn’t really be using terms like I’m about to use, but Rogen’s Paul character really made this film a fun, cute and heartwarming tale. I felt like I was on this journey and not just along for the ride. I would even go as far as to say it’s the Rated-R version of E.T. It didn’t make me cry (damn you E.T.), but it put a much needed smile on my face as I walked out of the press screening. I’m sorry. I’m getting all choked up now. Ha ha.
So as you head out to the theater this pre-spring weekend I encourage you to give this little green guy a chance. Although there’s no nudity onscreen, please leave the kiddies home for this. There’s a lot of swearing and f-bombs throughout the feature’s 90-minute runtime. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Oh well, the important thing is that I enjoyed myself immensely at Paul and that’s all that really matters. And of course, for all the Pegg and Frost fans out there, this is a no-brainer. And did I mention it has Bill Hader and Jason Bateman in it? Those two crack me up all the time. Check it out, yo!